QUITO, Ecuador – Leftist economist Rafael Correa, in a tight race to win Sunday's presidential runoff, criticized President Bush Thursday for the Iraq invasion and claimed his policies led to the Republicans' congressional defeat.
"The American people have been the first to speak their minds in an overwhelming fashion on the errors committed by the Bush administration, above all in Iraq," he said. "I think all citizens of the world have a right to express ourselves about that mistake, which put world peace in danger."
Correa, 43, has promised radical political reforms if elected and is an admirer of Venezuela's firebrand President Hugo Chavez. He faces pro-U.S. populist Alvaro Noboa, 56, Ecuador's wealthiest man, in Sunday's runoff.
Later, at his closing campaign rally in northern Quito, Correa again accused his opponent of using child labor on his banana plantations and evading taxes on some of the 114 companies he operates.
"At stake here is whether to have a nation or be just one more plantation for the conceited Noboa," he told thousands of cheering supporters.
Noboa, owner of the world's fourth-biggest banana company, has crisscrossed Ecuador handing out computers, wheelchairs and money, and pledging to boost the economy by persuading his rich foreign friends to invest in Ecuador.
At his closing rally in coastal city of Guayaquil, Noboa dismissed Correa's campaign as a "dirty and diabolical war" against him.
"He runs with communists but he isn't man enough to call himself communist," Noboa said of his opponent. "Here I have you totally naked Correa, showing Ecuador what you are."
Correa, who has a doctorate from the University of Illinois, said he hoped to have good relations with the United States "within a framework of mutual respect." But he repeated his pledge not to extend the U.S. military's use of the Manta air base on the Pacific coast for drug surveillance flights when a treaty runs out in 2009.
During his news conference, Correa also reiterated his opposition to a free trade agreement with the United States. He said he would seek to increase trade with nations in the Middle East and the Far East, as well as Europe, Brazil, Argentina and other nations.
Correa said he planned to reduce payments on the foreign debt to free up money for social programs "without ruling out a moratorium if necessary" — a position that has alarmed Wall Street.