Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has handily won re-election, demonstrating wide public support for his government’s social welfare programs and leftist economic policies.
Correa swept the field with some 57 percent of the vote cast Sunday, defeating his closest challenger by at least 30 points -- more than two to one -- with three-quarters of the votes counted.
“Many thanks for this immense trust,” Correa told his supporters after his re-election, the New York Times reported. “We have never failed you, and we never will fail you.”
Correa said he intends to expand his current policies aimed at reducing economic inequality while providing support for the poor, including better access to education and health care.
The former economist, who completed graduate studies at the University of Illinois, has been a vocal critic of free- market economic policies and stands alongside leftist Latin American leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.
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"Nobody can stop this revolution," Correa said in a public address from the balcony of the presidential palace in Quito, the BBC reported. "The colonial powers are not in charge anymore, you can be sure that in this revolution it's Ecuadoreans who are in charge."
Critics say Correa has overreached with his executive powers, weakened democratic institutions, stifled political dissent and discouraged free enterprise.
In particular, he has been accused of limiting judicial powers and media freedoms, as well as handing out court and government positions to political allies.
The president also has been criticized for pushing heavy taxation on the private sector to fund social programs and has been known to publicly lash out at political opponents and the media.
Nevertheless, his support among most Ecuadoreans has proven strong, particularly after guiding the country out of an economic crisis that began in the late ‘90s and went unmanaged by his predecessors.
“You have to trust Correa because he has done a lot that other governments never did in all these years,” said Rita Bastidas, a 42-year-old nurse who voted for him, the Times reported. “Correa came along, and, in very little time, everything changed for the better.
“They accuse him of being authoritarian and arrogant, but this country needed someone like that to change things,” she added.
Correa first took office in 2007, serving two years and then running for re-election under a new constitution approved in a referendum.
According to Ecuador’s new constitution, which Correa supported, he will not be able to run for re-election when his new term expires in 2017.