Catholic social worker latest left-wing Latin American leader

With a plan to rewrite Ecuador's constitution, former Catholic social worker Rafael Correa was yesterday sworn in as the country's new president, the latest in Latin America's line of left-wing political leaders.

The Guardian reports that the charismatic Correa, who was seen as a political outsider, said he would immediately push for a national referendum on rewriting Ecuador's constitution, a measure opposed by much of the nation's political establishment.

Speaking at his inauguration, Correa, 43, said that Ecuador has "a perverse system that has destroyed our democracy, our economy and our society".

He won a November election runoff pledging to lead a "citizens' revolution" to make the country's democracy responsive to its poor majority.

He says a new constitution is vital to limiting the power of the traditional parties that he blames for the country's problems.

During his election campaign, Correa attacked the Ecuadorian Congress as a "sewer" of corruption and ran no candidates for the legislature. And he said last week that the newly installed congressmen "do not represent anyone other than their own interests and the bosses of their political parties and that is not democracy".

On Sunday, Correa urged cheering supporters in the remote Andean village of Zumbahua, where he lived briefly 20 years ago as a Catholic social worker, to help him "conquer the majority in the assembly, to control it with 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent!"

Correa had travelled to the impoverished community for a ceremony in his honor, in which he received a streamer-draped sceptre signifying authority in Indian communities.

Five Indian priests wrapped him in colourful ribbons, shook sacred herbs over his head and called upon the spirits of earth, moon and sun to provide his four-year term with positive energy.

Thousands of people, most of them Indians, jammed Zumbahua's central square for the ceremony, a mix of Catholic and Indian rituals to mark the beginning of Correa's term.

"I will never fail you", he told the crowd. "Let us make a true democratic revolution, constitutional but still a revolution ... radical, profound and quick changes to the current model of so much exploitation, of so much injustice."

Also attending the ceremony were Venezuelan President Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales, fellow leftists and his closest allies in the region.

Other leftwing Latin American presidents from Brazil, Chile, Peru and Nicaragua were also slated to attend Correa's inauguration.

Correa earlier graduated with a masters in economics from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium where he was active in student politics and in promoting links between students of different countries.

Leftist Assumes Presidency of Ecuador
Catholic University of Louvain Graduate President of Ecuador (Media Release, Catholic University of Louvain, 15/1/07)(French)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Rafael Correa (Wikipedia)

16 Jan 2007

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