One such person is seeking a new term as president of the poor Andean republic of Ecuador tomorrow.
Unsurprisingly the omens seem good for the re-election of Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, now approaching his 50th birthday and married to a Belgian whom he met when studying economics in Belgium. He may well win a third term in the Carondelet Palace, the presidential residence located among the gold-encrusted baroque churches in the old colonial capital of Quito.
Latin American leadership
To his supporters, Correa could well take on a leadership role in a Latin America which may soon be struck by the disappearance of the ailing Fidel Castro, who has passed over most of his prerogatives to his octogenarian younger brother Raúl. The future for Hugh Chávez of Venezuela is also far from certain.
An area in Ecuador known as Yasuní-ITT could be one of the electoral aces in Correa’s hand. His
government has undertaken to conserve, rather than exploit, the oil-rich area, which contains more than 800 million barrels of oil, in exchange for about half the fuel’s market value. And it has just seen the fruits of the idea.
The first tranche of money, almost $9 million (€6.74 million), was committed last month from a trust fund administered by the UN, to build the Huapamala hydroelectric scheme near the provincial capital of Loja. The fund has so far collected $300 million – a start on the target of $3 billion that the Ecuadorians and their sponsors want to raise.
No Ecuadorian president can expect to survive if he or she neglects to take a strong hand with the oil companies, which in the recent past did not just pay rock-bottom prices for the crude but left the oilfields looking like Iraq after the Anglo-American invasion. Ecuador was an early member of Opec but foreign pressure from the oil companies forced it out in 1992 and it rejoined only in 2007.
In February 2011, an Ecuadorian court fined US oil company Chevron more than $18 billion for damage done to to indigenous communities between 1964 and 1990. Chevron is appealing, and an international tribunal is due to rule on the matter next year.
As the sun starts to go down on the US oil companies, the Chinese are moving in and buying much more Ecuadorian oil. The sun has already set on the big US air and sea bases in the port of Manta on which the Ecuadorians gave Washington a 10-year lease in 1999.
Correa’s stock is rising, particularly among poorer Ecuadorians. If he wins another term of office tomorrow, it will rise even more.