Courtesy Reuters

Correa's Challenge in Ecuador

Letter From Quito

Ecuador is no stranger to political turbulence. In the last three decades, 13 heads of state have ruled the country. Some only lasted a few days. Others managed to complete their terms. Two were ousted by popular revolts, and one was ejected by a coup. So the relatively stable rule of President Rafael Correa, who took office in 2007 and was reelected by a 30-point margin in last week’s election, has been nothing if not an anomaly. Correa has become Ecuador’s first president to serve three consecutive terms.

This year's electoral campaign was relatively low-key, and it centered on the president's personality rather than his policies. Opposition politicians called him an "intolerant bully" who clamped down on private media and opponents. But his own electoral campaign focused on his ability to make the dreams of Ecuadorians come true. The campaign's positive image matches Ecuadorians’ overall satisfaction with their country’s direction.  According to polls conducted by Quito's Center for Research and Specialized Studies, more than 50 percent of Ecuadorians say they feel happy about their country's trajectory -- a huge improvement over the years preceding Correa.

That increase is not surprising; the years immediately before Correa’s rise were rough. In the late 1990s, low prices for oil, the country’s main export, and agricultural damages caused by El Niño–powered floods, among other factors, led to a huge economic crisis. Banks shut down or appealed for a bailout. In 2000, the country adopted the U.S. dollar as its currency in order to stave off hyperinflation. Pessimistic about the future, hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians migrated abroad, mainly to the United States, Spain, and Italy. Remittances became the second-largest source of foreign currency after oil exports.

After a period of relative stability and growth, though, the global financial crisis hit in 2007 and 2008, diminishing both remittances and exports. But, thanks to Correa's policies, Ecuador miraculously stayed afloat. Since taking office in 2007, he has raised corporate taxes nine times. Oil companies have been

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