QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa claimed victory in Sunday's presidential election, giving him a new four-year term to continue his socialist revolution and strengthen Latin America's alliance of leftist leaders.
"The victory belongs to each one of you," said a jubilant Correa from the balcony of the presidential palace above a crowd of supporters in Quito.
"Nobody can stop this revolution," he said. "The colonial powers are not in charge anymore. You can be sure that in this revolution it's Ecuadoreans in control."
The charismatic leftist had 57 percent support compared with 24 percent for runner-up Guillermo Lasso, with almost 40 percent of votes counted. The electoral authority said it did not expect the results to change significantly.
The combative, U.S.-trained economist took power in 2007 and has won strong support among the poor by using booming oil revenues to build roads, hospitals, and schools in rural areas and shantytowns.
"Our Ecuador needs a president like Rafael Correa. He has been strong and has not allowed anyone to intimidate him," said Julieta Moira, 46, who is unemployed, as she celebrated outside the presidential palace. "I'm very excited, happy and thankful."
Supporters also gathered in a park in the upscale north end of Quito, waving the signature neon-green flags of Correa's Alianza Pais party.
DEDICATES WIN TO CHAVEZ
Correa, 49, may now be in line to become Latin America's main anti-American voice and de facto leader of the ALBA bloc of leftist governments as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been silenced during his battle with cancer.
Correa said he dedicated his victory to Chavez.
The principal challenge in Correa's new four-year term will be wooing investors needed to boost stagnant oil production and spur the mining industry. A $3.2 billion debt default in 2008 and aggressive oil contract negotiations scared off many.
Critics view Correa as an authoritarian leader who has curbed media freedom and appointed aides to top posts in the judiciary.
The only Ecuadorean president in the past 20 years to complete a full term in office, Correa is admired for bringing political stability to a nation where leaders had been frequently toppled by violent street protests or military coups.
Opposition leaders call Correa a dictator in the making who is quashing free speech through hostile confrontation with the media and squelching free enterprise through heavy taxation and constant regulatory changes.
His success hinged in part on high oil prices that allowed for hefty government spending, including providing cash handouts to 2 million people, and spurred solid economic growth.
Correa hopes to diversify the economy away from oil and win over investors who turned their backs on Ecuador after he defaulted on $3.2 billion in bonds and forced oil companies to sign contracts giving more revenue to the government.
Investors will be watching Correa's new term for signs he is willing to compromise to bring in investment needed to raise stagnant oil production, boost the promising but still nascent mining sector, and expand power generation.
The other six opposition candidates include former Correa ally Alberto Acosta, former President Lucio Gutierrez and banana magnate and five-time presidential candidate Alvaro Noboa.
Ecuadoreans also chose a new Congress on Sunday.
The ruling Alianza Pais party was expected to win a majority of the legislative seats, up from around 42 percent.
That would let Correa push ahead with controversial laws including a plan to create a state watchdog to regulate television and newspaper content, without having to negotiate with rivals.
The results of the vote for Congress are not expected to be known for several days.
Correa spent weeks on the campaign trail, from indigenous villages of the Andean highlands to urban slums in the bustling port city of Guayaquil, singing and dancing to play up an image of youthful energy.
An avid cyclist, Correa filmed one campaign spot showing him changing out of a sharp suit into biking clothes and then riding his bike over mountain peaks and past tropical fishing villages to show the improvement of roads under his leadership.
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