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Ecuador's President Pushes for Leftist Reforms


Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa is promising to move quickly on government reforms following Sunday's vote that apparently gave his supporters a majority in a special assembly to rewrite the country's constitution. VOA's Brian Wagner reports from Miami.

Election officials said it may take weeks for a final tally of voting for the constitutional assembly, but President Correa has already declared victory.

He said Monday he expects his Alianza party to secure at least 80 seats in the 130-member assembly that will convene at the end of the month. He also said he will ask the assembly to dissolve Congress and call elections for a new body that he says will better represent the people's interests.

The 44-year-old former finance minister has said the assembly is needed because Ecuador's congress has repeatedly blocked his proposals, such as plans to increase social spending, strengthen the government's control over natural resources and reform property rights.

Rafael Quintero of Central University in Quito says Sunday's vote shows Mr. Correa's agenda for sweeping changes within the government has a wide popular appeal. He says Ecuadorians are tired of being treated by the government as subjects and not as citizens with full rights.

Mr. Correa campaigned on a promise to break the hold of Ecuador's political parties, which he blames for decades of government corruption and instability. He says he hopes the new constitution will shift power away from Ecuador's political elite and pave the way for socialism.

To that end, Quintero says Mr. Correa's party has been recruiting people from outside government for congress and the new assembly. He says many of those seeking to join the constitutional assembly have affiliation with labor unions, social groups, human rights organizations and farmers groups.

The reform process in Ecuador is similar to one taken by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who called for a constitutional assembly shortly after he took office in 1999. Mr. Chavez has been a key supporter of President Correa since he assumed the post in January.

Quintero says the constitutional process in Ecuador is not inspired by Venezuela or any other Latin American government. He says the demand for change partly stems from a major protest by indigenous groups in Ecuador in 1990, and has been brewing since then.

He says there is a strong feeling that that the changes Ecuador's people have been demanding for many years now have an opportunity to become public policy.

Critics accuse Mr. Correa of seeking to secure his hold on power, and say his proposed economic reforms may hurt the nation's business sector.

The special assembly is scheduled to meet for at least six months to draft a new constitution that must be approved in a popular referendum.

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