By Satyaki Chakraborty
Ecuador belonging to the Latin American continent is witnessing its run off Presidential elections on October 15, Sunday culminating in a fierce poll campaign marked by jail killings, car bombings, shootings and a widespread security crisis involving the common citizens. The Left wing Presidential nominee Luisa Gonzalez who entered the runoff campaign as the frontrunner after the first Presidential elections, is currently behind his young opponent Daniel Noboa by about seven points in opinion polls. Only a last minute miracle can ensure the victory of Gonzalez who belongs to the party of the former President Rafael Correa.
Gonzalez has adequate experience in governmental functioning being an active member of the core group attached to Correa during his presidential years for a decade. She mentioned in her campaign of the success of the anti poverty programmes carried out during Correa regime that helped in bringing 32 per cent of the poor above the poverty line. She also emphasized on the facilities provided by the earlier regime for education and healthcare. But her thrust of the campaign was combated by her challenger, absolutely new in politics Noboa who focused his campaign on the aspiring youth of Ecuador who constitute 30 per cent of the population. He assured to bring a new dawn in the lives of the unemployed by pursuing a novel strategy which will open up new opportunities for investment by both domestic and foreign companies leading to the generation of jobs.
In the days before the runoff election, Ecuador experienced several significant political developments, starting with the assassination of seven suspects linked to the killing of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio in two Ecuadorian prisons. The jail killings were followed by an alleged testimony from a survivor of one of the attacks implicating Gonzalez’s party in the assassination of Villavicencio. While these allegations are still under investigation, they may influence public opinion in the lead-up to Sunday’s vote. Gonzalez has totally denied the allegations by mentioning that her party supporters had nothing to do with the killings and the wild allegations are being spread by the supporters of the rival presidential candidate. The killings issue is being publicized by the anti-Left media in Ecuador. Presidential candidate Noboa is getting advantage from this propaganda against his competitor Gonzalez.
Noboa’s rise in Ecuadorian politics as a newcomer and the youngest presidential candidate in Ecuador’s history is linked to the despair pervading the middle class in Ecuador about the failure of the politicians in tackling the burning issues of the day, especially security of the citizens. Noboa’s vision for Ecuador is portrayed as forward-looking, with a focus on three main areas: addressing the security crisis, creating employment opportunities for the youth, and improving healthcare access. His proposals include creating isolated maritime maximum-security prisons to alleviate the jail crisis, which has resulted in more than eighteen massacres in 2023 alone; the creation of a centralized intelligence unit to encourage efficient information sharing; and increased access and use of technology, such as drones and advanced military equipment to combat organized crime.
Regarding employment, Noboa’s campaign has focused on connecting with students in the attempt to comprehend their challenges, with employment being the leading preoccupation of many. He has proposed a plan of “educating to employ” to facilitate their transition into the job market while providing tax incentives to companies that hire university graduates. Access to healthcare and medicine shortages is a concern as well, and Noboa has pledged to address these limitations by institutionalizing and upscaling the country’s system of medical brigades.
Political analysts of Latin America have noted on this issue of employment generation in Ecuador which is in a state of crisis in the area of generating new jobs for the aspiring youth, Gonzalez is lacking. Her approach is based on incentives and is not meeting the aspirations of the educated youth of Ecuador who are looking for all the facilities available in the first world. According to one report, in the last two weeks, the shift in opinion poll in favour of Noboa was due to his espousal of new employment strategy which clicked with the new generation.
Daniel Noboa has taken a very pragmatic position to consolidate anti left votes along with the votes of the right wingers who are opposed to the present president Guillermo Lasso. That way Noboa is projecting himself as a young modern political personality who has no fixed dogma but who works for what is best for Ecuador. It is different from a conventional right wing strategy and that is what is worrying the Ecuadorian left.
Noboa is also in agreement with his rival Gonzalez on issues related to climate change, environmental protection, and sustainability. This is an area in which Ecuador has pioneered in the last couple of years through its historic debt for nature swap, the expansion of its marine reserve and its Amazon conservation efforts. The earlier left wing president Rafael Correa also underlined on Amazon conservation efforts. In the recent period, Brazilian president Lula has taken prominent lead in focusing on the need for protecting Amazon forests.
Rafael Correa is still acting as the mentor of his leftwing party and he is expected to return to Ecuador if Gonzalez wins presidency. If elected, she has promised to use $2.5bn from international reserves to shore up the struggling economy and bring back social programmes implemented under Correa, who has since been convicted of corruption. “We will take control of the country. It is the time to lift up the homeland with dignity,” she said in the course of campaign
Current president Guillermo Lasso was elected in 2021 presidential elections in a run off on April 11 by narrowly defeating the left wing candidate Andres Arauz who was a follower of Correa. Lasso dissolved the national assembly in May this year ordering snap elections following a constitutional crisis. Lasso nor anyone from his conservative CREO party is participating in the elections. (IPA Service)