Brussels (dpa) - Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa believes that Latin America still faces the challenge of building "true democracy," but he admitted that the United States is no longer the region's "Satan."
"What we have are formal democracies, fragile like plasticine," Correa, 44, said in an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. "It is true that we have been holding elections for 20 years, but having a democracy is something quite different."
An economist who met his wife, Anne Malherbe, in Belgium during his postgraduate studies there, Correa was on a private visit to Brussels.
"Look at what happened in our countries a few years ago: you could say any awful thing you wanted to win the election, and the following day you did exactly the opposite, and people were stuck with that person for four years," he said.
In January, the populist Correa became Ecuador's eighth president in 10 years, with a reform programme that includes a constituent assembly to thoroughly reshape the oil-rich country's institutions.
He belongs to a generation of left-wing politicians who have risen to power in Latin America in recent years, along with Evo Morales in Bolivia and the firebrand Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, or the less controversial Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil and Nestor Kirchner in Argentina.
Correa sees himself and other leaders in the region as representatives of the "new, Latin American-style socialism."
"We are part of that current denominated 21st-century socialism," he said. "We agree with traditional socialism on the supremacy of labour over capital, for example."
Correa lamented that over the last two decades, Latin America has suffered "a total subjugation of lives, people and human labour to the need to accumulate capital."
He complained about changes that made labour markets more flexible for the sake of growth, while workers suffered lower wages and a loss of stability.
In opposition to such changes, Correa emphasized socialist traditions such as "the importance of collective action" to overcome what he called "the myth - closer to religion than to science - that individualism is the engine of society."
By Fernando Heller
July 18, 2007
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