Ecuador presidential elections: what you should know | ET REALITY

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One candidate seeking to become Ecuador’s president is Daniel Noboa, a center-right scion of a banana empire who placed a surprising second in a runoff in August by an electorate hungry for change in a country suffering from violence and a sick. economy.

Noboa faces Luisa González, a leftist establishment candidate who, in trying to become the country’s first woman elected president, promises voters a return to a period when violence was low and the price of oil, an industry key, high. .

At stake in Sunday’s elections is the future of this Latin American nation of more than 17 million people, a once quiet haven that has been disrupted by international criminal groups that have turned Ecuador into a key player in the global drug trade. drugs.

Working with local gangs, global cartels have unleashed a wave of violence that has sent tens of thousands of Ecuadorians fleeing to the US-Mexico border, part of a wave of migration that has overwhelmed the Biden administration.

Like much of the rest of Latin America, Ecuador has taken a huge financial hit from the coronavirus pandemic, with many workers struggling to earn enough money to support their families.

Here’s what you need to know about voting.

What makes this election different from others?

The outgoing president, Guillermo Lasso, called early elections in May while facing impeachment proceedings against him over accusations of embezzlement. Lasso had also become increasingly unpopular among voters angry at the government’s failure to address spiraling violence.

The assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio as he left a campaign event in August was a traumatic shock to a nation going to the polls during perhaps the most violent election season in its history.

In addition to Villavicencio, who spoke openly about what he claimed were links between organized crime and the government, five other politicians have been murdered this year. Last week, seven men accused of killing Villavicencio were found dead in prison.

Whoever wins will hold the presidency for only about a year and a half. Noboa has had a consistent lead in multiple polls since August, although he has slipped slightly in recent days and some polls show him neck and neck with González.

What is at stake in these elections?

Ecuador was once a peaceful nation compared to its neighbors, particularly Colombia, which for decades was torn by violence between armed guerrilla units, paramilitary groups and drug cartels.

That all changed in recent years as Colombia forged a peace deal with the country’s largest leftist guerrilla group and Ecuador became dominated by an increasingly powerful drug trafficking industry that includes Mexican cartels and Albanian gangs.

Through its ports on the Pacific coast, Ecuador has become a major transshipment point for cocaine that is smuggled to Europe. International groups have joined forces with prison gangs in a brutal competition for the lucrative drug industry.

The news regularly features beheadings, car bomb attacks, police killings, young people hanging from bridges and children shot to death in front of their homes or schools.

Who is Luisa González?

González, 45, is the hand-picked candidate of former President Rafael Correa, who led the country from 2007 to 2017. She held several positions in his government before being elected to Congress in 2021, a position she held until the legislature was dissolved. by Mr. Lasso in May.

His campaign has sought to appeal to voters’ nostalgia for the low homicide rates and commodity boom that lifted millions out of poverty during Correa’s administration. González’s campaign motto in the first round was “we already did it and we will do it again.”

But González’s close association with the former president also carries risks. Correa’s authoritarian style and his accusations of corruption deeply divided the country. He lives in exile in Belgium, fleeing a prison sentence for campaign finance violations, and many Ecuadorians fear that a González presidency will pave the way for him to return and run for office again.

González has pledged to tap central bank reserves to stimulate the economy and increase financing for the public health system and public universities.

“We know that she is with the people, not with the rich, and that is why she is going to improve things,” said Oswaldo Proaño, 40, a street vendor in Quito, the capital, who spoke amid shouts and whistles at a recent campaign rally for Ms. González.

“With Luisa we will have security, like we had in the time of Rafael Correa,” said Luisa María Manteca, 65, who works at a cosmetics distributor in Quito. “With him, the country worked well and we have to continue on that path.”

The possibility that González could become the first woman to win the presidency of Ecuador also attracts many voters.

“She is a very humble person,” said Débora Espinosa, 19, a university student. “As a woman she understands us.”

Who is Daniel Noboa?

Noboa, 35, comes from one of the richest families in Latin America, known to most Ecuadorians for their banana empire, which boasts one of the best-known fruit brands in the world, Bonita bananas.

But the Noboa family’s vast holdings are varied and include fertilizers, plastics, cardboard and the largest container storage facility in the country.

Noboa’s father ran unsuccessfully for president five times, although the younger Noboa’s political career dates back only to 2021, when he was elected to Ecuador’s Congress.

He has positioned himself as a “jobs president,” even including a job application form on his website, and has pledged to attract international investment and trade and reduce taxes.

But like his father, Noboa has also drawn criticism from analysts who fear he could use the presidency to advance the family’s growing business empire.

At a recent campaign event, hundreds of university students lined up in the coastal city of Guayaquil, the country’s most populous city and the epicenter of the violence, waiting more than an hour to see Noboa.

He took off his bulletproof vest and slowly and calmly answered the students’ questions, repeating his talking points about how to make Ecuador an attractive market for international banking. He was greeted with applause, cheers and teenagers running to take selfies with him.

“I’ve been watching his interviews and I like his proposals on topics like dollarization, education and work,” said Dereck Delgado, 17, an electrical engineering student, who plans to vote for Noboa. (The voting age in Ecuador is 16 years old and voting is mandatory for those over 18 years old).

Many voters are also attracted to him because he represents an alternative to Correa’s party. Valeria Vásquez, 33, who runs a local beauty products company in Guayaquil, said she liked that Noboa “is not a socialist.”

Another Noboa supporter, Natasha Villegas, 19, a university student in Guayaquil, said she believed it was “time to give a young man the opportunity.”

What do the candidates say about security?

Noboa and González have promised to stop the violence, although neither has made security a central part of their campaigns.

Both candidates have talked about providing more money for police and deploying the military to protect ports used to smuggle drugs out of the country and prisons, which are controlled by violent gangs.

González has pointed to the arrests of several criminal gang leaders when he served in the Correa administration as evidence of his intention to apply a firm hand.

Noboa has proposed using technology, such as drones and satellite tracking systems, to curb drug trafficking, and has suggested building prison ships to isolate the most violent inmates.

But analysts say the two candidates have not done enough to prioritize the fight against crime that has destabilized Ecuador and turned it into one of the most violent countries in Latin America.

Thalíe Ponce contributed reporting from Guayaquil; Emilia Paz y Miño and José María León Cabrera contributed from Quito.

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