Ecuador's Correa vows to make socialist revolution "irreversible"
By Eduardo Garcia | February 21, 2013 10:00 AM EST
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said his party likely won three-quarters of the seats in Congress in last weekend's election and vowed on Wednesday to "steamroll" through reforms that will make his socialist model irreversible.
The 49-year-old economist was re-elected on Sunday with 57 percent of votes, some 34 percentage points more than the runner-up. During his six years in office he has won broad support with high spending on infrastructure and social welfare.
Results are still being compiled, but Correa said the ruling Alianza Pais party probably won about 73 percent of Congress' 137 seats. That means he will be able to push through reforms, although he said he would respect different political opinions.
"This is going to be a legislative steamroller to serve the interests of the Ecuadorean people. ... In democracy, the winners rule, but the losers have to be respected," he told foreign reporters at the presidential palace.
"We're overwhelmed with the amount of support from people. ... We're going to deepen the citizen's revolution, build a new homeland and make it irreversible."
Final results from Sunday's congressional and presidential votes are expected to be published in the coming days.
Correa first took office in 2007 vowing to increase revenue from the OPEC nation's oil resources and cut debt obligations to fund spending on roads, hospitals and schools.
He also promised to press ahead with socialist reforms to empower the low-income majority and dismantle what he called an elitist system that controlled the state and neglected the poor.
Among the bills Correa has pledged to push are a plan to distribute idle land among the poor, and a media law to regulate content in newspapers and TV networks - which could stoke an ongoing confrontation with opposition media.
"We'll ask for the same things that we asked for before this resounding victory: for the media to be decent, ethical, to inform instead of manipulate, to communicate instead of getting involved in politics," the president said.
In the past, Correa has called journalists "dogs" and "hired assassins," and has filed lawsuits against reporters and media owners who he says are determined to undermine his government.
He is also expected to pass a new mining law to ease investment terms that could pave the way for the development of some large and mid-sized projects that would let Ecuador diversify its economy away from a dependence on oil exports.
Correa said he did not want to play a leading role in the ALBA alliance of leftist Latin American presidents at a time when the bloc's figurehead, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has been silenced by his battle with cancer.
"No one is looking for anything for themselves," he said, referring to other leftist presidents in the region including Bolivia's Evo Morales. "We want to help people and if I can help by being Hugo's chauffeur, that's what I'll do," he said.
Correa also accused U.S. oil company Chevron of waging a global campaign to discredit Ecuador over a $19 billion (12.4 billion pounds) ruling against the company for polluting the Ecuadorean Amazon.
A tribunal, acting under The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration, earlier this month said Ecuador's government should have stopped plaintiffs in the case from going to court in Brazil, Argentina and Canada to try to collect judgment.
"These tribunals are pimps," Correa said. "They're there to defend the interests of investors, the capital of foreign companies. Don't fool yourselves."
In 2011 an Ecuadorean court ordered Chevron to pay billions to local plaintiffs who had accused the company of wrecking the jungle with faulty drilling practices in the 1970s and 1980s.
Chevron has contested the judgment, saying it uncovered evidence of fraud by lawyers for the plaintiffs - allegations the lawyers deny.
Correa said Latin American countries should join forces to protect themselves from "abuse" by foreign investors.
"We have to continue working toward unity because together we can set the rules," he said. "If we're divided, then the capitalists will set the rules and they will continue abusing, wrecking our countries, like Chevron did."
(Additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Daniel Walllis and Todd Eastham)
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