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Former Coup Leader in Ecuador Wins Presidential Election

A former coup leader who campaigned in army fatigues has declared victory in Ecuador's presidential election.

Former army colonel Lucio Gutierrez appeared to defeat a banana magnate who hoped his business reputation would draw investors to the South American country. With 93 percent of votes counted, colonel Gutierrez has garnered 54 percent of votes cast, with Alvaro Noboa trailing with 45 percent.

In a speech last week to close his campaign, Mr. Gutierrez pledged a fight against corruption. He also promised to improve social services in Ecuador, where more than half the people live in poverty.

The former army colonel gained a reputation in early 2000 when he joined protesting Indians to commandeer the assembly hall in Congress. Later the same day, January 21, 2000 he formed a ruling junta with a Supreme Court judge and an Indian leader. They ruled for mere hours before the country's vice-president took power, and Mr. Gutierrez spent six months in jail as a result of the coup.

He calls his party 21st of January Patriotic Society, but Colonel Gutierrez has rejected Mr. Noboa's comparisons of himself to Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Like Mr. Chavez, Mr. Gutierrez sometimes campaigned in his military uniform but rejects implications from the Noboa campaign that he'd run the country as a dictator.

Of about five-million votes cast Sunday, about 10 percent were annulled, an indication, analysts say, many voters were unhappy with both candidates.

During his campaign Mr. Gutierrez traveled to the United States, aiming to attract badly needed investments to Ecuador, whose major exports are petroleum and bananas.

In a business suit, he visited Wall Street and told potential financiers that his country would continue with the dollar as its currency and would meet its debt obligations to multilateral lenders. He said he wants a new deal with the International Monetary Fund.