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Leftist president breezes to re-election in Ecuador

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 9:30 p.m.

QUITO, Ecuador — President Rafael Correa, a dynamic leftist who has championed Ecuador's lower classes with generous social spending but faced wide rebuke as intolerant of dissent, coasted to a second re-election on Sunday.

Correa won 56.7 percent of the vote against 24 percent for his closest challenger, former Banco de Guayaquil chief Guillermo Lasso, with 36 percent of the vote counted.

So confident was Correa of victory that he appeared on state TV less than an hour after polls closed, hugging jubilant supporters in the Carondelet presidential palace.

He then addressed a cheering crowd from its balcony.

“This victory is yours. It belongs to our families, our wives, our friends and neighbors, the entire nation,” Correa said. “We are only here to serve you. Nothing for us. Everything for you, a people who have become dignified in being free.”

Lasso conceded as first official results were released, congratulating Correa for “a victory deserving respect.”

Former President Lucio Gutierrez won 5.9 percent. The rest of the vote was split among five other candidates.

Correa told reporters that his goal is to further reduce poverty, which the United Nations says dropped from 37.1 percent to 32.4 percent since he first took office in 2007, as he deepens what he terms his “citizens' revolution.”

Correa, 48, has brought uncharacteristic political stability and modest economic growth to this oil-exporting nation of 14.6 million people that cycled through seven presidents in the decade before him.

He has raised living standards for the poor and widened the welfare state with region-leading social spending, though human rights groups say he bullies anyone who gets in his way and civil liberties have suffered.

Correa's result topped his April 2009 re-election, when he won 51.7 percent of the vote. That election was mandated by a constitutional rewrite approved in a referendum. Correa is legally barred from another 4-year term — unless he seeks to amend the constitution.

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