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Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado is the President of the Republic of Ecuador and the current President pro tempore of the Union of South American Nations. An economist educated in Ecuador, Belgium and the United States, he briefly served as his country's Finance Minister in 2005. He was elected President in late 2006 and took office in January 2007. In December 2008, he declared Ecuador's national debt illegitimate because it was contracted by corrupt/despotic prior regimes, pledging to fight creditors in international courts. He brought Ecuador into the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas in June 2009. Correa has described himself as a "humanist and Christian of the left". Correa was re-elected to a second term in April 2009, and was sworn in on August 10, 2009.
Correa was born in Guayaquil and earned an Economics degree at the Universidad Catolica de Guayaquil in 1987. Following his degree, he worked for one year in a mission at a kindergarten and run by the Salesian order in Cotopaxi Province, where he acquired some knowledge of Kichwa, the language of the majority of the native pre-Columbian population concentrated in the Andes region. In addition to Spanish, he speaks French, Quechua, and English.
In June 1991, he received a Master of Arts in Economics from the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. He later studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned a Master of Science in Economics in May 1999, and later a PhD in Economics in October 2001. According to The Washington Post, Correa's adviser at the University of Illinois, Werner Baer, supports his former student. "He appreciates the market to a certain point, but he knows that the market left alone concentrates wealth", he said. "He is not going to do anything foolish... because he is a fairly open-minded person."Markey, Patrick. Ecuador's Correa leaps from outsider to take lead, Washington Post, 11 October 2006
In 2005, Correa served as economy and finance minister under President Alfredo Palacio. During his four months in office, he advocated poverty reduction and economic sovereignty. Correa was skeptical of a free-trade deal with the United States, did not take the advice of the International Monetary Fund, and worked to increase Ecuador's cooperation with other Latin American countries. After the World Bank withheld a loan (citing the changes to the oil income stabilization fund), Correa resigned from Palacio's government. Correa had also proposed the issue of government bonds at a lower interest rate than the contemporary one (8.5%); Venezuela was to purchase half of the new bond issue. Correa claimed in his resignation letter that the sale was done with full presidential authorization, but cited lack of support from the president as a factor in his decision to resign.
When Correa resigned, polls showed he had the highest credibility of any official in the administration at the time, with 57% of Ecuadorians saying that they trusted him.
2006 presidential campaign
At the start of 2006 presidential campaign, Rafael Correa founded the Alianza PAISPatria Altiva y Soberana ("Proud and Sovereign Fatherland Alliance"). The movement espouses political sovereignty, regional integration, and economic relief for Ecuador's poor. Correa, an observant Roman Catholic, describes himself as a humanist, a Christian of the left, and a proponent of socialism of the 21st century.
During the campaign, Correa proposed a constituent assembly to rewrite Ecuador's constitution.McDermott, Jeremy Man of the people closes in on presidency, The Scotsman, 14 October 2006. Alianza PAIS did not run any congressional candidates, as Correa had stated that he would call for a referendum to begin drafting a new constitution. However, the Alianza PAIS movement signed a political alliance with the Ecuadorian Socialist Party, which did present candidates for Congress.
On economic policy, Correa called for reform of the petroleum industry, including an increase in the percentage of petroleum revenues spent on social programs for the Ecuadorian poor, following the reforms of the Hydrocarbons Law promoted by former Economy and Finance Minister Diego Borja. He accused foreign petroleum companies operating in Ecuador of failing to meet existing environmental and investment regulations. In an interview, Correa stated:
Many of the oil contracts are a true entrapment for the country. Of every five barrels of oil that the multinationals produce, they leave only one for the state and take four... That is absolutely unacceptable. We're going to revise and renegotiate the contracts."
Finances and debts
He advocated reform of the financial sector, including limiting offshore deposits by local banks to no more than 10% of their holdings.
Correa also proposed strategies for reducing the burden of Ecuador's foreign debt service through compulsory debt restructuring. He indicated that his top priority would be spending on social programs rather than servicing Ecuador's debt.
Correa criticized the neoliberal policies of recent Ecuadorian presidents, especially Jamil Mahuad. He criticized the decision by President Mahuad in 2000 to adopt the US dollar as the country's official currency while later acknowledging that it would not now be feasible to abandon that policy.
Commerce and foreign policies
Correa also criticized Ecuador's draft free trade agreement as currently negotiated with the US, "Ecuador rejects US free trade pact," Business Week, 10 December 2006 although he does advocate expanding trade and opening markets with other countries, urging in particular the integration of South American economies. "Ecuador Joins the Great SouthAm Nation," Prensa Latina, 15 January 2007
On foreign policy, Correa commented on Ecuador's relations with its neighbor Colombia. Correa stressed Ecuador's interest in staying uninvolved in internal conflict in Colombia. In October 2006, Correa added that he would "pursue and capture" FARC members if they enter Ecuador. He also declared that he condemns their kidnappings, violations of human rights and bombings. Later, during his presidency Colombian police accused Correa of having ties to the FARC. Correa denied the accusations. See section Presidency.
In August 2006, Correa told the Ecuadorian press that he is not part of the Venezuelan Bolivarian movement, although he considers Hugo Chavez a personal friend. In June 2009, nonetheless, Correa joined the Chavez-backed Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), together with Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and other countries.
In response to Chavez's comparison of US President George W. Bush with Satan, Correa said it was unfair to the devil.Weitzman, Hal. Ecuador looks to the left as election looms, Financial Times. 2 October 2006.
In addition to his platform on economic and social policy, Correa's ability to communicate with Ecuador's indigenous population in their own language also differentiated him from the other presidential candidates. He learned Quichua in his youth during a year he spent volunteering in a remote highland town.Weitzman, Hal. Rafael Correa: Chavista with a whip hand, Financial Times. 9 October 2006. However, in the 15 October election, a large percentage of the votes in areas with high concentration of indigenous people went to candidate Gilmar Gutierrez, brother of former president Lucio Gutierrez, although Correa generally ran second in these areas.
In the 15 October 2006 general election Correa obtained second place (22.84%) behind banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa (26.83%). Correa won the subsequent 26 November 2006 runoff election with 56.67% of the vote. He took office on 15 January 2007.
First Presidency 2007-08
Rafael Correa was officially declared president of Ecuador on 4 December 2006 by the country's electoral court. He was sworn in on 15 January 2007 as the 56th president of Ecuador, the seventh to occupy the post since the legislature removed President Abdala Bucaram 10 years earlier in the midst of a debt crisis that devastated the country. His inauguration was attended by most regional leaders, as well as the Iranian President and Spanish Crown Prince.
Since 2007, President Correa has been the Vice President of the International Parliament for Safety and Peace, an intergovernmental organisation based in Italy .
Correa promised to get rid of the traditionally corrupted political class.
Correa's administration has suggested that the new government will not sign an agreement allowing the International Monetary Fund to monitor its economic plan. In February 2007, Correa's economy minister Ricardo Patino stated: "I have no intention ... of accepting what some governments in the past have accepted: that (the IMF) tell us what to do on economic policy." "That seems unacceptable to us," Patino added. However, as a member of the IMF, the annual report known as the "Article IV" report will be undertaken.
Repudiation of Ecuador's foreign debt;Foreign debt renegotiation
Correa has called for a renegotiation of Ecuador's $10.2 billion external debt, at 25% of GDP,Dudley, Steven . "Ecuador's new leader walks tightrope", Kansas City Star. following the example of Argentine President Nestor Kirchner. In his inaugural address on 15 January, Correa stated his belief that part of Ecuador's external debt is illegitimate, because it was contracted by military regimes. He also denounced the "so-called Washington Consensus." Correa has threatened to default on Ecuador's foreign debt, and to suspend review of the country's economy by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; indeed, on April 26, 2007, he ordered the expulsion from Ecuador of the World Bank's country manager.
In May 2007, evidence surfaced that some of the Ecuadorian government rhetoric might have been part of an alleged market manipulation to benefit Ecuador from movements in the price of financial instruments linked to Ecuadorian Bonds. A fall in Ecuador bond prices, ignited by aggressive default rhetoric, would trigger a buyback by Ecuador, financed by Venezuelan banks. This strategy collapsed due to operations engaged by Venezuelan financial institutions who profited from the market swings. Correa referred to the allegations as a conspiracy from a powerful banker. On July 26, 2007, Rafael Correa replaced finance minister Patino, due to Patinos appearance in a video recording, apparently discussing the market manipulation. Patino then assumed a newly created position responsible for the Pacific coast region and later assumed the Politics Affairs Ministry. "Correa replaces finance minister after Ecuador bond allegations". Financial Times. July 26, 2007
Correa's political orientation has helped foster ties with Venezuela. The latter pumped in and supported Ecuador on a number of projects. But with the 2008 economic crisis and Ecuador's looming default on $510 million of bonds, there was rumour of a possible rift. The drop in the price of Ecuador's biggest export, oil, forced the country to use a 30-day grace period to decide whether to make a $30 million interest payment that was due on November 15. Venezuela apparently owns structured securities tied to Ecuador's bonds that would then force Venezuela to pay $800 million if Correa does not make the payment. Venezuela's potential losses may cause a strain in relations between two, who meet every three months and espouse similar socialist themes. An analyst from Barclays said "Chavez will have something to say...[He] will encourage Correa not to default."
On December 12, Correa said that an interest payment due on Ecuador's national debt would not be made. He declared the country in default: "We are ready to accept the consequences". He described the debt as "immoral", saying the government would take its findings that past debt sales were tainted by graft and bribes to international courts.
In a radio address on December 13, Correa said that he wants to force a big discount on creditors, whom a day earlier he called true monsters who wont hesitate to crush the country.
"I have lost sleep over this ... this will cost us tears and sweat but I think we are doing the right thing." Correa, who endorses anti-debt NGO Jubilee 2000's slogan "life before debt", is popular among Ecuadorians for his stance against foreign investors. He has already forced foreign companies to change contract terms in the oil and mining industries and ejected a major Brazilian building company in a dispute over a dam construction as he seeks to increase state income.
Buy back bonds
On April 16, 2009, Finance Minister Maria Elsa Viteri embarked on a trip to Europe in a mission to present Ecuador's offer to buy back global bonds 2012 and 2030 at 30% of their current value. Bond holders had until mid-May (extended to June 3) to accept or make an offer. According to the Finance Minister, at least 70% of bond holders have accept the governments' offer. On May 29, Ecuador made a payment of approximately 300 million dollars to part of the bond holders. The Finance Minister has said that on June 13, the government will reveal all the details of the repurchase. According to government reports, all or almost all of the bonds will be retired from the global market at a price of 30-35 on the dollar. These bonds constitute one fourth of Ecuador's debt. If Ecuador is able to retire these bonds, it would reduce the nation's debt by $2 billion dollars, making this a great economic victory for president Rafael Correa and his administration.
On June 11, 2009, Ecuador announced that it had successfully bought 91% of the bonds at a cost of 30-35 cents to the dollar. The Finance Minister said that the remaining bond holders will have another opportunity to sell their bonds at the same price of 35%. This move will nominally reduce the total foreign debt by $2 billion dollars (although it might lead to losing access to private financial markets in the future).
Relations with United States
On repeated occasions, Correa has announced Ecuador's unwillingness to renew a lease on the Eloy Alfaro Air Base to United States Southern Command. SOUTHCOM has the contractual right to leave a year after that date, but has announced it plans to vacate by September 2009." Southcom's New Commander - Lt. Gen. Douglas Fraser," Just the Facts, 3 June 2009. Retrieved 4 June 2009.
On February 7, 2009, Correa ordered the expulsion of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement attache Armando Astorga for allegedly suspending $340,000 in annual aid because Ecuador would not allow the US State Department to veto appointments to the anti-smuggling police. He cited as evidence a letter Astorga allegedly sent (January 8) demanding that the anti-contraband police return all donated equipment. Subsequently, on February 17, Mark Sullivan, the US Embassy's first secretary in the embassy's office of regional affairs was given 48 hours to leave the country because of his "unacceptable meddling." Foreign Minister Fander Falconi said Sullivan, in a meeting with police in early February, questioned a decision by Ecuadorean Police Chief Jaime Hurtado to transfer the head of the Special Investigations Unit to another police post.
Tension with Colombia
Correa withdrew his government's ambassador in Bogota, Colombia, and ordered troops to the country's border following the 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis in early March 2008. On 3 March 2008, Colombia's police said that documents found in a camp in Ecuador where Colombian troops killed Raul Reyes, a top guerrilla boss, showed ties between the FARC rebels and Correa, including contacts about political proposals and local military commanders. Correa denied the accusations, calling them lies. Correa also said that a deal to release political prisoners including former Colombian Sen. Ingrid Betancourt was nearly complete before the 1 March 2008 Colombian raid into his country. On 5 March 2008, Correa and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez met to discuss Colombia's attack and made a series of accusations against Colombia's government. During the meeting, Correa dismissed Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe as just a "puppet" while others are the "puppet masters".
At a Rio Group summit held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on 7 March 2008, after a heated exchange of accusations between Correa and Uribe, the diplomatic crisis was temporarily resolved with Colombia's apologies for the attack and reassurances that it won't be repeated. Correa said that with this resolution Latin America was starting a new era where international principles of justice will have preeminence over power.
Currently, there are no diplomatic nor consular relations between Colombia and Ecuador. Correa has declined to resume diplomatic relations until Colombian government fulfill these five conditions:
1. Send an apology for the attack, which has been already done.
2. Send more troops to the south border of Colombia, now in hands of guerrillas and regular criminal bands.
3. Stops trying to link Ecuadorian government with FARC guerrilla.
4. Avoid using chemical products on the common border, which has caused several injuries on local population, both Colombian and Ecuadorian, and
5. Help with the expenses for Colombian refugees on Ecuadorian soil. Ecuador is the country with the highest number of foreign refugees on the occidental hemisphere.
Diplomatic relations with Iran
Ecuador and Iran resumed diplomatic relations in the first year of Correa's watch. In December 2008, Correa visited Tehran and signed several agreements. Responding to the intrusion of Colombian forces earlier that year, Correa is reported to have discussed the possibility of an arms deal with Iran." Ecuador plans to buy weapons from Iran," Tehran Times, December 15, 2008 . Retrieved June 4, 2009. As a member of ALBA, Correa participated in a joint declaration of support to the Ahmadinejad government in June 2009.
In February 2007, Correa's plan to have a referendum on the convening of a constituent assembly was approved by Congress. The referendum took place on 15 April 2007. However, after this date was set, the "statutes" for the referendum were modified by Correa to allow more powers to the constituent assembly. One of these powers was the ability to dismiss Congress, a power which Congress never approved. The newer version of the referendum was approved by the majority of the seven-seat Electoral Tribunal. In early March, Congress, which was controlled by Correa's opposition, reacted by trying to impeach the President of the electoral tribunal. The electoral tribunal then removed from office the 57 members of Congress who tried to impeach the President of the Electoral Tribunal, on the grounds of attempting to intervene an electoral process. Correa backed the electoral tribunal (which approved his version of the referendum) while stating that the removal of the 57 congressmen was constitutional. The situation escalated to a feud between the opposition in Congress and the Executive and marches in the street against Congress and police intervention to prevent the Congressmen from entering the legislative building.
On 22 March, 21 alternate deputies were sworn in, allowing the Congress to regain quorum, and on 23 March and 24 March a further 20 deputies were sworn in. The new majority (formed by 28 alternate deputies and 31 deputies from parties that support the referendum and Assembly) pledged to support the referendum on the Constitutional Assembly. On 15 April, Ecuadoreans voted overwhelmingly (81.72% in favor) to support the election of a constituent assembly.
On 23 April, the Constitutional Tribunal decided to try to reinstate 51 of the 57 Congressmen who had been fired by the Electoral Tribunal. The Constitutional Tribunal claimed that it was illegal to remove them in the first place, and approved a petition by the 51 requesting their reinstatement. Ecuador Reinstates 51 Ousted Lawmakers Washington Post, 24 April 2007 But before the congressmen had the chance to reenter Congress, Congress voted to fire all nine judges of the Constitutional Tribunal for their "unconstitutional actions".
On 30 September, as a result of a national election, President Correa won backing for his plans to rewrite Ecuador's constitution and expand state control of the nation's economy. Correa's faction won approximately 61% of the seats in the National Assembly (80 of 130 Assembly Members).
Relationship with the media
Correa, paraphrasing Tony Blair, stated that the Ecuadorian press acted as "a group of wild beasts". He has also regularly criticized it as "...mediocre, incompetent, inaccurate, lying and is a part of the structure of corruption and accomplice of the national disaster." On May 19, during a press conference called by Correa to talk about freedom of speech, he ordered that security eject the opinion editor of the Guayaquil-based El Universo newspaper, whom he had invited to the event. Correa ordered him to be ejected because the editor began talking about Correa's personal life. Video
Correa declared that he would not hesitate to revoke the license of "coup instigating" media stations following the example of Hugo Chavez when he took RCTV off the air.
Lawsuit against the La Hora newspaper
On 10 May 2007, Correa filed a lawsuit against Francisco Vivanco Riofrio, president of the board of directors of the Quito-based La Hora newspaper, over an editorial published in the paper on March 9. The editorial, titled Official Vandalism, said that Correa intended to rule Ecuador with turmoil, rocks and sticks. It described the presidents behavior as shameful.
Correa's suit is based on Article 230 of the countrys penal code that sets prison penalties of up to two years for contempt, expressed in threats or libel that would offend the president. Committee to Protect Journalists 15 May 2007 La Hora, 18 May 2007
Francisco Vivanco Riofrio has declared that he will not apologize for the editorial and that he is prepared to face the lawsuit. He has also declared that "that editorial reflects our thoughts and we will defend not only our right to manifest our opinions but also the opinions of all citizens, as we have done during the 25 years of our newspaper existence. 14 May 2007 La Hora enfrentara juicio interpuesto por Presidente, El Telegrafo, 14 May 2007
Reactions to the lawsuit
In connection with Correa's complaint against La Hora, the Ecuadorian Association of Newspaper Publishers (AEDEP), has shown its support for that newspaper and declared that "no contemporary Ecuadorian politician has employed such legal figure (contempt) as an instrument to frighten the press."
The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) has declared that it is "a clumsy step on the part of the Ecuadorean president to file a criminal charge against a news outlet, accusing it of contempt, an archaic concept in a modern democracy and outmoded in Latin America and which should be eliminated from penal codes, as the IAPA has been insisting." The Committee to Protect Journalists has also protested against the lawsuit: Fear of criminal penalties will inhibit the Ecuadoran press in reporting and commenting on issues of public interest. We call on President Correa to drop the libel suit against Vivanco and repeal defamation laws that contradict international standards on freedom of expression. The World Press Freedom Committee has declared that "it is clear that this attempt to silence the Ecuadorian press goes against very basic freedom of the press tenets, as consecrated in at least two of the most important international human right charts."
Expropriation of Gamavision and TC television channels
Correa has constantly denounced what he views as the political activism of the major Ecuadorian television channels. He has also denounced the fact that they are owned by business groups who own banks related to the financial crisis of 1999, where millions of state dollars were given to rescue them while these left thousands of people without their life savings. In mid 2008, the Correa government expropriated Gamavision and TC television channels because these were property of the Isaias group. This group owned Filanbanco, a bank involved in the crisis of 1999. Correa did this to give back the savings to those affected by it. Currently these channels are owned by the state and have been defined as assets before calling an auction to sell them. Correa hopes that the stations' own workers gather together to buy each channel.
Correa decided to create Ecuador TV, the first state-owned channel in the country in order to produce television with better quality standards than the private channels. Also newspaper El Telegrafo became state owned.
In June 2009, CONARTEL (a radio and television regulating body) imposed fines on a remaining independent television station, Teleamazonas, for transmitting bull-fights and "The Simpsons" during prime time. A third fine could lead to a temporary or permanent ban on this private television channel.
Yasuni - ITT Project. The aim of the proposal is to provide a creative solution for the threat posed by the extraction of crude oil in the Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha (ITT) oil fields, which are located in the highly vulnerable area of Yasuni National Park. The proposal would contribute to preserving biodiversity, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and their way of life.
President Correa has stated that Ecuadors first option is to maintain the crude oil in the subsoil. The national and international communities would be called on to help the government implement this costly decision for the country. The government hopes to recover 50% of the revenues it would obtain by extracting the oil. The procedure involves the issuing of government bonds for the crude oil that will remain in situ, with the double commitment of never extracting this oil and of protecting Yasuni National Park. If Ecuador succeeds in receiving the hoped for-amount estimated at 350 million dollars annually it would only be for a period of ten years beginning after the sixth year, since production, and thus potential revenues, would progressively decline after those ten years.
A more promising alternative would be a strategy to provide the government with the 50% of resources in such a way as to provide a consistent income for an indefinite period of time. This resource would be channelled towards activities that help to free the country from its dependency on exports and imports and to consolidate food sovereignty.
Correa overturned a ban on the sale of shark fins, which are popular in Asia, but stipulated that the fins can only be sold if the sharks are caught accidentally and by artisan fishermen. He did not say how authorities would determine whether the shark had been caught accidentally or deliberately.
On August 3, 2007, Correa ordered the deportation of Sean O'Hearn-Gimenez, director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, saying that he would not allow "gringuitos" (foreigners) to tell Ecuadorians what to do or to persecute local fishermen. O'Hearn-Gimenez was arrested immediately. The deportation was ordered because Sea Shepherd, in partnership with the Ecuadorian National Environmental Police, exposed and stopped the biggest shark-fin shipment in the port city of Manta and O'Hearn-Gimenez had conducted forcible entry against Ecuadorians thus interfering with the sovereignty of the country. Correa later rescinded the extradition order because O'Hearn-Gimenez was married to an Ecuadorian woman. All the arrested fishermen were released, too, and the confiscated shark fins returned to them.
Second Presidency 2009-present
Rafael Correa was re-elected for a second term in April 2009. It was the first time in thirty years that the country had re-elected a President. He won by a margin over the other seven candidates, taking 52 per cent of the vote to the 28 per cent of Lucio Gutierrez, his nearest rival. His party also won the largest legislative block in the National Assembly, although not a majority. "Avenger against oligarchy" wins in Ecuador The Real News, April 27, 2009.
Correa was sworn into the Presidency on 10 August 2009, the same day as Ecuador's bicentennial. His speech took place in front of several South American dignitaries, such as President of Argentina Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Bolivia Evo Morales, President of Cuba Raul Castro and President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez. Correa used the opportunity to promise a continuation of his socialist revolution, his plans to end poverty and to go on stamping out the structural causes of poverty. He also said the actions of the media were opposing his government. He claims that the continuation of his "citizens' revolution" policy is intended to ensure all citizens are equal.
MSNBC, "Leftward Tilt: Political Shift in Latin America"
Ecuador's Election: Revolution! Please Give Generously The Economist, April 23 2009
"The resignation of Rafael Correa, Ecuadors Economy Minister: an example of IFIs influence?"
Update on the Ecuadorian Economy, June 2009, report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research
Rafael Correa on Global Capitalism, Why He Wont Renew the US Base in Manta, Chevron in the Amazon - video by Democracy Now!
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Rafael Correa