Populist president takes on Ecuador’s elite

Dan Grech Apr 13, 2007

SCOTT JAGOW: Ecuador is in political turmoil. All three branches of the government are in open confrontation, and a group of lawmakers has even formed a parallel Congress.

In the midst of the chaos, voters go to the polls Sunday for a referendum on whether to rewrite the South American nation’s constitution. President Rafael Correa says he wants a new constitution to add protections for the poor. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace’s Dan Grech has more.

DAN GRECH: President Correa’s latest challenge to the status-quo is entirely characteristic. Since he took office in January, the left-wing populist has spurned free trade with the U.S., promised to renegotiate foreign oil contracts and threatened to default on his country’s debt.

Now, he’s taking on Ecuador’s political system, which he says is dominated by the country’s elite.

Jed Bailey directs Latin American research at Cambridge Energy Research Associates. He says the down-trodden in Ecuador see a new constitution as a fresh start.

JED BAILEY: If they could change that founding document, then they would be able to directly place into that opportunities specifically for the indigenous or for the very poor.

By calling for a new constitution, Correa is following in the footsteps of his friend Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and President Evo Morales in Bolivia. Both won referendums to change the constitution. In Ecuador, polls show voters back Correa’s proposals 3 to 1.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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