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Voters such as Fabian Garzon, a 48-year-old messenger and cleaner, credit Mr. Correa with improving their lives.

Mr. Garzon has what he’s always dreamed of: his own apartment, which he is buying with a $24,000 government mortgage issued by an institution created by Mr.  Correa’s government. His monthly salary, meanwhile, has more than doubled over the past four years, from $200 to $450, and payments for his social security, vacation and other government-mandated contributions are being made regularly.

“I worked 25 years without having my own house, and at this age, thank God, I’m able to own my own home,” Mr. Garzon said.

In all, 1.9 million people receive $50 a month in aid from the state. Critics complain that the popular handouts to single mothers, needy families and the elderly poor, along with other subsidies, have bloated the government.

The number of people working for the government has burgeoned from 16,000 to 90,000 during Mr. Correa’s current term, Ecuador’s nongovernmental Observatory of Fiscal Policy said in a December report.

Mr. Correa also has been unable to stop a growing sensation of vulnerability in a country where robberies and burglaries grew 30 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year.

Mr. Correa gained a reputation as a maverick early on, defying international financiers by defaulting on $3.9 billion in foreign debt obligations.

He has also kept the United States at arm’s length while upsetting Britain and Sweden in August by granting asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the online spiller of leaked U.S. government secrets who is wanted for questioning in Sweden for alleged sexual assaults.

Mr. Correa has cozied up to U.S. rivals Iran and China. The latter is the biggest buyer of Ecuador’s oil and holds $3.4 billion in Ecuadorean debt, Finance Minister Patricio Rivera says.