Quito, Ecuador A South American politician has made an unflattering comparison between President Bush and the devil, threatened to nationalize oil production and said he is committed to popular revolution. And it's not Hugo Chavez.
The rhetoric of Rafael Correa, the favorite in today's presidential election here, could pass for that of Chavez, the Venezuelan leader. The 43-year-old U.S.-educated economist has struck a stridently anti-U.S. tone in a campaign in which he has come from nowhere in the polls three months ago to assume a commanding lead.
Although a run-off election on Nov. 26 is likely, Correa is seen by analysts as the odds-on favorite to become Ecuador's next president. The strongest among his 12 competitors, banana magnate Alvaro Noboa and Vice President Leon Roldos, are each 5 percentage points or more behind him.
His rise in the polls has stirred apprehension among people who fear Correa would join Chavez, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Argentina's Nestor Kirchner in a coterie of U.S.-bashing Latin leaders. Wall Street also has taken notice: The country's sovereign bonds have lost 10 percent in value over the last month after Correa threatened to default on Ecuador's $14 billion in foreign debt.
In a Sept. 27 television interview, he was asked about Chavez's description of Bush as the devil in his address to the U.N. General Assembly last month, Correa responded: "The devil is bad, but at least he's smart. Bush is a tremendously clumsy president who has done damage to his country and to the world."