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Ecuadoreans rally in support of Correa's new constitution

August 24, 2008|From Reuters

QUITO, ECUADOR — Thousands marched Saturday to back Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who polls show is inching closer to winning a Sept. 28 vote to pass a new constitution that would expand the leftist leader's authority.

Correa, a former economy minister who took office last year, is widely popular for his spending on the poor and his pledges to fight powerful elites whom he blames for the political instability that toppled his last three predecessors.

The new constitution would bolster Correa's sway over the oil-producing nation's economy and political institutions, such as Congress and the top courts.

"We will crush the old country ruled by elites and mafia groups," Correa told cheering supporters waving flags of his political party in the hilly capital, Quito. "We are not going to return to the past. . . . We will win this decisive battle."

Three polls last week showed support for the new constitution is nearing the more than 50% majority Correa needs to pass the document.

Correa, a U.S.-trained economist, said a feeble opposition planned to resort to violence during the referendum campaign as a way to destabilize his government. Tens of thousands of supporters, from poncho-clad Indians to coastal peasants in wide-brim hats, sang and danced at the afternoon event.

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