Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Ecuador: Rafael Correa; Defeating the "Envoy of God"

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Ecuador: Rafael Correa; Defeating the "Envoy of God"

Article excerpt

Exit polls and rough counts show a late surge for the leftist Rafael Correa, on course to win Ecuador's presidential election and defeat his right-wing rival Alvaro Noboa by a margin estimated at 12 per cent.

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A vast ideological chasm separated Noboa's campaign from Correa's--it was a contest between "two forms of populism, one rightist, one leftist", observed Carlos de la Torre, director of political studies at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Ecuador.

Noboa, a member of the richest family in Ecuador, banana magnate, and now three-times presidential candidate, adopted a deliberately demagogic approach, invoking religious imagery at campaign rallies and at times falling to his knees clutching a Bible, presenting himself as the people's saviour--el enviado de Dios, the envoy of God. His electoral tactics reflected this rhetoric: during the campaign he distributed food, clothing, money and computers to the poorest areas that made up his electoral base: classic populism.

Noboa's platform showed similar ideological commitments: he called for close relations with the US through a free-trade treaty, a programme of neoliberal modernisation, access to microcredit for the poor, 300,000 units of new housing a year, and possibly cutting diplomatic relations with Cuba and Venezuela. As Marco Arauz, the political analyst of El Comerci, put it, his party is "an extension of his economic interests".

Noboa's idiosyncratic brand of right-wing populism had kindled fears that his candidacy could bring a deep reactionary current to the forefront of Ecuadorian politics. As de la Torre said, his election would have heralded the arrival of a "banana republic" in Ecuador. Another commentator, Rodrigo Fierro Benitez, said, even more acidly, that "if we do not react with resolve" to Noboa's candidacy, "our country will start its Africanisation". …

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