Daniel Noboa, the 35-year-old heir to a banana empire, made history by becoming Ecuador’s youngest-ever president-elect. He pledged to “restore peace” to a nation that has been plagued by a violent drug gang war. Following the announcement by the electoral authority of his victory and the concession of defeat by his socialist rival Luisa Gonzalez, Noboa committed to the task of rebuilding a country that had suffered greatly from violence, corruption, and hatred.
Ecuador, traditionally a peaceful buffer between major cocaine-exporting countries Colombia and Peru, has witnessed a surge in violence in recent years, as rival gangs with ties to Mexican and Colombian cartels have battled for control. This violence has resulted in the massacre of at least 460 inmates in prisons since February 2021, with many being beheaded or burned alive in mass riots. The violence has also spilled onto the streets, with gangs displaying headless bodies from city bridges and detonating car bombs outside police stations to assert their dominance.
In August, the violence claimed the life of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, known for his anti-graft and anti-cartel stance, who was gunned down after a campaign speech. He had been polling in second place. Following Villavicencio’s assassination, a state of emergency was declared, and both Noboa and Gonzalez campaigned and voted while wearing bullet-proof vests and under heavy security.
Noboa’s promise to his supporters in his hometown of Olon in the southwest was to “restore peace, bring education back to the youth, and create jobs.”
Ecuadorians cast their votes over a period of 10 hours on Sunday without reports of violence, under the watchful eye of approximately 100,000 police and soldiers.
The main concerns of Ecuadorians, according to opinion polls, are crime and violence, which have seen the murder rate quadruple in the four years leading up to 2022.
Noboa, who secured approximately 52 percent of the vote according to nearly complete results, will serve only 16 months to complete the term of the incumbent Guillermo Lasso. Lasso called for a snap vote to avoid potential impeachment for alleged embezzlement. According to the law, Noboa can run again for the 2025-29 presidential term and the one after that. Both runoff candidates were relatively unknown in politics.
Noboa, the son of one of Ecuador’s wealthiest individuals, who himself has had five unsuccessful presidential campaigns, labels himself “center-left” while embracing neoliberal economic principles. He ran under the banner of the newly formed National Democratic Action alliance, which includes parties from the center and left of the political spectrum.
Ecuador has a poverty rate of 27 percent, with a quarter of the population either unemployed or holding informal jobs. Unemployment is listed as the second most significant concern among voters, according to opinion polls.
Noboa reiterated his commitment to “bring progress to a country that possesses all the elements to be a global example.”
Gonzalez was the chosen candidate of the socialist ex-president Rafael Correa, who governed from 2007 to 2017 and currently resides in Belgium to evade an eight-year prison sentence for corruption, which is another major concern in the country. Gonzalez had garnered the most votes in the first round in August with 34 percent, followed by Noboa with 23 percent.
Addressing her supporters in Quito, Gonzalez extended her “profound congratulations” to Noboa, emphasizing the significance of democracy. With just 13 lawmakers in his corner out of 137 in parliament, Noboa will face the challenge of pushing through any reforms during his 16-month tenure, as he does not possess an absolute majority for legislative projects.
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