One of the hemisphere’s fiercest sibling rivalries might get played out on a national stage.
Fabricio Correa — the older brother of Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa — said he would challenge him at the ballot box in 2012 unless a more viable opposition candidate came along. Fabricio first suggested the possibility of a presidental run last summer but most observers did not take him seriously.
If he makes good on the threat, it is likely to produce a nasty and memorable presidential race in a region known for its political theater.
Fabricio rails against the president for surrounding himself with people he calls communists and guerrilla sympathizers.
In Miami recently, Fabricio, 50, said a presidential bid would not be about family one-upmanship but about the future of Ecuador, a nation of 15 million.
Rafael Correa, 47, a former university professor and U.S.-trained economist, won the presidency in 2007 as a political outsider with a populist touch. Once he took office, his ambitious social programs, his willingness to rewrite oil and trade deals in the nation’s favor, and a steady dose of anti-imperialist rhetoric made him a darling of Latin America’s left. The country joined the ALBA bloc of nations — led by Venezuela and Cuba — in 2009.
Fabricio said his priorities were to get tough on crime (he has been mugged three times), to root out corruption, and to rebuild ties with the U.S. and Europe.
The Correa brothers were not always at odds. Fabricio, an engineer, joined his brother’s presidential campaign when he was still a virtual unknown, helping him garner votes and raise money.
Fabricio said the relationship soured when it became apparent that his brother was going to appoint members of the “failed left” to key positions.
The brotherly tensions did not make headlines until June 2009, when a team of Ecuadoran reporters exposed some $120 million in public contracts they said went to companies linked to Fabricio.
President Correa defended his brother for weeks until — amid mounting political pressure — he annulled the deals and barred Fabricio from competing for the state’s business.
Fabricio claims the deals were won through fair and open bidding and that his engineering firms had been doing business with the government for decades.
“I had my businesses for 26 years,” he said. “I couldn’t just close them because my brother’s president.” But when the administration’s attacks became personal, he started fighting back, he said.
Credit: by Jim Wyss, Kansas City Star, www.kansascity.com; photo caption: President Rafael Correa