The reelection Sunday of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for a third term, with more than 56 percent of the vote, makes some interesting points about the political climate in Latin America and elections in general.
Although Mr. Correa, 49, is probably not as radical in his populist approach to governing Ecuador, a country of 15 million, as the presidents of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and Bolivia, Evo Morales, it is fair to say that one characteristic of his seven years as top leader has been greater devotion of his country's wealth to meeting the needs of the poorer segments of Ecuador's population. He has directed a substantial portion of its oil, gas and other wealth to education, health care, housing and other infrastructure for both the rural and urban poor than his predecessors did.
Mr. Correa will gain in seniority among Latin America leaders with the declining health of Mr. Chavez of Venezuela, who has just returned home from more major medical care in Cuba. It isn't accurate to say that there now exists a bloc of Andean states, all of them populist and somewhat anti-United States in their orientation, because there are variations among them, but it is clear that with the greater wealth they are accumulating from petroleum and mining resources and more honest, more public-oriented government, they are becoming more independent of the North American giant and more democratic.
Mr. Correa stuck his finger in Washington's eye by having Ecuador grant political asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, in the country's embassy in London last year.
The Ecuadorian president employed classic political tactics, including "divide and conquer," to defeat his opponents Sunday. With eight candidates for the presidency, the opposition vote split sharply and permitted Mr. Correa to garner easily the 50 percent vote that enabled him to avoid a run-off election. His closest opponent was Guillermo Lasso, a former banker. Mr. Correa is scheduled to govern for another four years, his last term under the country's constitution.