(AFP) – Oct 20, 2008
QUITO (AFP) — Ecuador rolled out its new, socialist-leaning constitution that was overwhelmingly approved by referendum three weeks ago and ushers in a new era of expanded presidential powers and new elections in February.
Pushed by President Rafael Correa, who is now allowed to run for reelection, the 444-article document that passed by a 64-28 percent margin in the plebiscite was published in the government's official bulletin Monday, making it the law of the land.
The Constitutional Assembly, which drafted the new Magna Carta, will have to convene shortly to organize general elections for February 2009, in which Correa can run for reelection. He has already indicated he would do so.
The new constitution allows the president to run for two consecutive four-year terms, dissolve Congress and call early elections.
Ecuador's new constitution strengthens the government's hold on the economy of this small nation of 13.9 million people -- half of whom live in poverty -- which is based chiefly on oil, banana and coffee exports, and money sent home by its emigrants.
Correa has said he wants his country to pursue "21st century socialism," as Ecuador follows leftist Venezuela and Bolivia, making it the latest South American country to chart a leftward course.
The new constitution is inspired by the leftist majorities in power in Venezuela and Bolivia and their repudiation of the neoliberal policies of the 1990s, but falls short of nationalizing the country's natural resources as Bolivia and Venezuela have done.
It also guarantees universal health care and free education up to the third year of college, as well as "a dignified and adequate home, independent of one's social and economic situation."
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