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Ecuador's presidential rivals close campaigns, leftist criticizes Bush

Ecuador's presidential rivals close campaigns, leftist criticizes Bush

Ecuador's presidential contenders closed their campaigns Thursday with leftist economist Rafael Correa lashing out at U.S. President George W. Bush and banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa claiming his rival was a communist.
The bitter rivals _ one Ecuador's richest man, the other an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez _ are locked in a tight race to win Sunday's presidential runoff, which comes after two were the top vote-getters in Oct. 15 elections in this politically unstable Andean nation.
Speaking with foreign correspondents on Thursday, Correa said Bush's mistaken policies in Iraq had led to the Republican Party's defeat in the recent congressional elections.
"The American people have been the first to speak their minds in an overwhelming fashion on the errors committed by the Bush administration, above all in Iraq," he said. "I think all citizens of the world have a right to express ourselves about that mistake, which put world peace in danger."
Correa, 43, has promised radical political reforms, opposes a free trade agreement with the United States and has rattled Wall Street by saying he plans to reduce payments on the foreign debt to free up money for social programs.
His pro-U.S., billionaire rival, owner of the world's fourth-biggest banana company, has crisscrossed Ecuador handing out computers, wheel chairs and money, and pledging to boost the economy by persuading his rich foreign friends to invest in Ecuador.
At his closing rally in coastal city of Guayaquil, Noboa, 56, repeatedly invoked the name of God, hoisted a bible above his head, and dismissed Correa's campaign as a "dirty and diabolical war" against him.
"He runs with communists but he isn't man enough to call himself communist," Noboa said of his opponent. "Here I have you totally naked Correa, showing Ecuador what you are."
At his closing campaign rally in northern Quito, Correa again accused his opponent of using child labor on his banana plantations and evading taxes on some of the 114 companies he operates.
"At stake here is whether to have a nation or be just one more plantation for the conceited Noboa," he told thousands of cheering supporters.
Correa, who has a doctorate from the University of Illinois, said he hoped to have good relations with the United States "within a framework of mutual respect." But he repeated his pledge not to extend the U.S. military's use of the Manta air base on the Pacific coast for drug surveillance flights when a treaty runs out in 2009.
Adopting the language of Chavez, who called Bush the "devil" at the United Nations, Correa last month said that the devil himself should be offended by the comparison, and that Bush was "tremendously dimwitted."
But earlier this month he said his remarks were "imprudent."
The softening of his rhetoric came just days after he criticized remarks by Chavez that characterized Noboa as a lackey of the United States.
Correa said after Chavez's attack on Noboa that he rejected "any expression that comes from abroad that interferes with the Ecuadorean electoral process," and called Chavez's comments "inopportune."
He told The Associated Press the next day that he was not distancing himself from the Venezuelan leader, but added that if elected he would not allow Chavez to influence his government.
Chavez's endorsement of presidential candidates appeared to backfire earlier this year in Mexico and Peru, where he was accused of meddling in internal affairs.


Updated : 2021-10-18 03:01 GMT+08:00