Correa received a Master's degree in Economics from the Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium), and a Ph.D. degree in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (United States) in 2001. According to The Washington Post, Correa's adviser at the University of Illinois, Werner Baer, supports his former student. "He appreciates the market to a certain point, but he knows that the market left alone concentrates wealth," he said. "He is not going to do anything foolish... because he is a fairly open-minded person.
In 2005, Correa served as economy and finance minister under his predecessor, President Alfredo Palacio. During his four months in office, he advocated poverty reduction and economic sovereignty. Correa was skeptical of a free-trade deal with the U.S.A., did not take the advice of the International Monetary Fund, and worked to increase Ecuador's cooperation with other Latin American countries. He resigned from Palacio's government after the World Bank withheld a loan (citing the changes to the oil income stabilization fund). Correa had also proposed the issue of bonds at a lower interest rate than was current at the time (8.5%); Venezuela was to purchase half of the new bond issue. Correa claimed in his resignation letter that the sale was done with full presidential authorization, but cited lack of support from the president as a factor in his decision to resign.
The decision by Palacio to ask for his resignation was seen by some political analysts as a concession by Palacio to pressure by the U.S.A. When Correa resigned, polls showed he had the highest credibility of any official in the administration, with 57% of Ecuadorians saying that they trusted him. His grandfather, Valentin Delgado, a resident of Orange County, California, died August 2, 2008 at the age of 102.
At the start of 2006 presidential campaign, Rafael Correa founded the Alianza PAIS—Patria Altiva y Soberana ("Proud and Sovereign Fatherland Alliance"). The new party espouses political sovereignty and regional integration, and economic relief for Ecuador's poor. Correa, an observant Roman Catholic, describes himself as a humanist, a Christian of the left, and a proponent of socialism of the 21st century.
During the campaign, Correa proposed a constituent assembly to rewrite Ecuador's constitution. Alianza PAIS did not run any congressional candidates, as Correa had stated that he would call for a referendum to begin drafting a new constitution. However, the Alianza PAIS movement signed a political alliance with the Ecuadorian Socialist Party, which did present candidates for Congress.
On economic policy, Correa called for reform of the oil industry, including an increase in the percentage of oil revenues for the Ecuadorian poor, following the reforms of the Hydrocarbons Law promoted by former Economy and Finance Minister Diego Borja. He accused foreign oil companies operating in Ecuador of failing to meet existing environmental and investment regulations. In an interview, Correa stated:
Many of the oil contracts are a true entrapment for the country. Of every five barrels of oil that the multinationals produce, they leave only one for the state and take four... That is absolutely unacceptable. We're going to revise and renegotiate the contracts." He advocated reform of the financial sector, including limiting offshore deposits by local banks to no more than 10% of their holdings.
Correa also proposed strategies for reducing the burden of Ecuador's foreign debt service, through compulsory debt restructuring; however, he stated he would favor giving priority to social development.
Correa criticized the neoliberal policies of recent Ecuadorian presidents, especially Jamil Mahuad. He criticized the decision by President Mahuad in 2000 to adopt the U.S. dollar as the country's official currency but, in late 2006, he acknowledged that it would not be feasible to abandon that policy.
Correa also criticized Ecuador's draft free trade agreement as currently negotiated with the United States, although he does advocate expanding trade and opening markets with other countries, urging in particular the integration of South American economies.
On foreign policy, Correa commented on Ecuador's relations with its neighbor Colombia. Correa stressed Ecuador's interest in staying uninvolved in internal conflict in Colombia. In October 2006, Correa added that he would "pursue and capture" FARC members if they enter Ecuador. He also declared that he condemns their kidnappings, violations of human rights and bombings.. Later, during his presidency Colombia's police accused Correa of ties with the FARC. Correa denied the accusations. See Presidency.
Correa also commented on Ecuadorian-Venezuelan relations. In August 2006, Correa told the Ecuadorian press that he is not part of the Venezuelan Bolivarian movement, although he considers Hugo Chávez a personal friend. In response to Chávez's comparison of President Bush with Satan, Correa said it was unfair to the devil.
On U.S.-Ecuadorian relations, Correa pledged to shut down the U.S. Forward Operating Location (often referred to as a "military base") in Manta, where 400 U.S. soldiers are stationed as part of the Eloy Alfaro Air Base.
In addition to his platform on economic and social policy, Correa's ability to communicate with Ecuador's indigenous population in their own language also differentiated him from the other presidential candidates. He learned Quichua in his youth during a year he spent volunteering in a remote highland town. However, in the 15 October election, a large percentage of the votes in areas with high concentration of indigenous people went to candidate Gilmar Gutiérrez, brother of former president Lucio Gutiérrez, although Correa generally ran second in these areas.
In the 15 October 2006 general election Correa obtained second place (22.84%) behind banana tycoon Álvaro Noboa (26.83%). Correa won the subsequent 26 November 2006 runoff election with 56.67% of the vote. He took office on 15 January 2007.
Rafael Correa was officially declared president of Ecuador on 4 December, 2006 by the country's electoral court. He was sworn in on 15 January, 2007 as the 56th president of Ecuador, the seventh to occupy the post since the legislature removed President Abdalá Bucaram 10 years earlier in the midst of a debt crisis that devastated the country.
Correa has called for a renegotiation of Ecuador's $10.2 billion external debt, at 25% of GDP Dudley, Steven, following the example of Argentine President Néstor Kirchner. In his inaugural address on 15 January, Correa stated his belief that part of Ecuador's external debt is illegitimate, because it was contracted by military regimes. He also denounced the "so-called Washington Consensus. Correa has threatened to default on Ecuador's foreign debt, and to suspend review of the country's economy by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; indeed, on 26 April 2007, he ordered the expulsion from Ecuador of the World Bank's country manager.
Correa's administration has suggested that the new government will not sign an agreement allowing the International Monetary Fund to monitor its economic plan. In February 2007, Correa's economy minister Ricardo Patiño stated: "I have no intention ... of accepting what some governments in the past have accepted: that (the IMF) tell us what to do on economic policy." "That seems unacceptable to us," Patiño added. However, as a member of the IMF, the annual report known as the "Article IV" report will be undertaken.
In May 2007, evidence surfaced that some of the Ecuadorian government rhetoric might have been part of an alleged market manipulation to benefit Ecuador from movements in the price of financial instruments linked to Ecuadorian Bonds. A fall in Ecuador bond prices, ignited by aggressive default rhetoric, would then trigger a buyback by Ecuador, financed by Venezuelan banks. This strategy collapsed due to operations engaged by Venezuelan financial institutions who profited from the market swings. Correa referred to the allegations as a conspiracy from a powerful banker. On 26 july 2007 Rafael Correa, replaced Patiño -who appeared in video recordings discussing the market manipulation- as his finance minister, after being censured by the then country's Congress. Patiño assumed a newly created position responsible for the economically important Pacific coast region.
Correa withdrew his government's ambassador in Bogotá, Colombia, and ordered troops to the country's border following a 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis in early March 2008. On 3 March 2008 Colombia's police said that documents found in a camp in Ecuador where Colombian troops killed Raul Reyes, a top guerrilla boss, showed ties between the FARC rebels and Rafael Correa, including contacts about political proposals and local military commanders. Correa denied the accusations, calling them lies. Correa said also March 3 2008 that a deal to release political prisoners -- including former Colombian Sen. Ingrid Betancourt -- was nearly complete before the March 1 2008 Colombian raid into his country.. On 5 March 2008, Correa and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez met to discuss Colombia's attack and made a series of accusations and insults against Colombia's government. . Correa during the meeting dismissed Colombia's president Alvaro Uribe as just a "puppet" while others are the "puppet masters".
At a Rio Group summit held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on March 7, 2008, after a heated exchange of accusations between Correa and Uribe, the diplomatic crisis was resolved with Colombia's apologies for the attack and reassurances that it won't be repeated. Correa's said that with this resolution Latin America was starting a new era where international principles of justice will have preeminence over power.
In February 2007, Correa's plan to have a referendum on the convening of a constituent assembly was approved by Congress. The referendum took place on 15 April 2007. However, after this date was set, the "statutes" for the referendum were modified by Correa to allow more powers to the constituent assembly (if it formed). One of these powers was the ability to dismiss Congress, a power which Congress never approved. The newer version of the referendum was approved by the majority of the seven-seat electoral tribunal. In early March, Congress, which was primarily controlled by Correa's opposition, reacted by attempting to impeach four members of the electoral tribunal. The electoral tribunal, in turn, responded by removing from office the 57 members of Congress who voted against the referendum, alleging that they were obstructing electoral processes. Correa backed the electoral tribunal (which approved his version of the referendum) while stating that the removal of the 57 congressmen was constitutional. The situation escalated to a feud between the opposition in Congress and the Executive and marches in the street against Congress, including the shooting of opposition supporters.
On 22 March, 21 alternate deputies were sworn in, allowing the Congress to regain quorum, and on 23 March and 24 March a further 20 deputies were sworn in. The new majority (formed by 28 alternate deputies and 31 deputies from parties that support the referendum and Assembly) pledged to support the referendum on the Constitutional Assembly. On 15 April Ecuadoreans voted overwhelmingly (81.72% in favor) to support the election of a constituent assembly.
On 23 April, the Constitutional Tribunal decided to try to reinstate 51 of the 57 Congressmen who had been thrown out office by the Electoral Tribunal. The Constitutional Tribunal claims that it was illegal to remove them in the first place, and thus they approved a petition that 51 of the 57 had signed requesting their reinstatement. Before the supposedly reinstated congressmen had the chance to enter back into Congress, Congress voted to fire all nine judges of the Constitutional Tribunal for their "unconstitutional actions."
On 30 September, as a result of a national election, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa won backing for his plans to rewrite the country's constitution and expand state control of the Andean nation's economy. Correa's faction won approximately 61% of the seats in the National Assembly (80 of 130 Assembly Members).
Correa asked the international community to contribute with funds in exchange for Ecuador's foregoing drilling and developing one of the biggest oil fields in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. It was said that this would protect the Huaorani nationality (the Tagaeri and the Taromenane). The president said that the contribution of approximately US$350,000,000 a year should be provided by developed countries, not as charity but "to share in the sacrifice and compensate us with at least half of what our country would receive, in recognition of the environmental benefits that would be generated by keeping this oil underground.
Correa overturned a ban on the sale of shark fins, which are popular in Asia, but stipulated that the fins can only be sold if the sharks are caught accidentally and by artisan fishermen. He did not say how authorities would determine whether the shark had been caught accidentally or deliberately
On August 3, 2007, Correa ordered the deportation of Sean O'Hearn-Gimenez, director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, saying that he would not allow "gringuitos" (US Nationals) to tell Ecuadorians what to do or to persecute local fishermen. Mr. O'Hearn-Gimenez was arrested immediately. The deportation was ordered because Sea Shepherd, in partnership with the Ecuadorian National Environmental Police, exposed and stopped the biggest shark-fin shipment in the port city of Manta -- and O'Hearn-Gimenez had conducted forcible entry against Ecuadorians (thus "interfering with the sovereignty" of the country). Correa later rescinded the extradition order because O'Hearn-Gimenez was married to an Ecuadorian woman. All the arrested fishermen were released, too, and the confiscated shark fins returned to them.