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LATIN AMERICA | 21-08-2023 09:24

Polar opposite candidates set to vie for Ecuador presidency in October run-off

Ecuador election heads for a second-round showdown that will pit leftist frontrunner Luisa González against Daniel Noboa, the conservative son of one of the country's richest men.

Ecuador is preparing for a presidential run-off election that will pit leftist frontrunner Luisa González against the son of one of the country's richest men.

Daniel Noboa, 35, emerged from political obscurity with 24 percent of the vote despite not figuring as a favourite in opinion polls.

González, a protege of ex-president Rafael Correa, has positioned herself as a defender of the country's social legacy.

Her main competition initially appeared to be anti-corruption candidate and former journalist Fernando Villavicencio until he was murdered on the campaign trail just 11 days before polls opened, marring the vote and raising questions over national security.

Once a peaceful haven, the small South American country has in recent years become a playground for foreign drug mafias seeking to export cocaine from its shores, stirring up a brutal war between local gangs.

The October 15 run-off election will choose who completes the term of unpopular conservative leader Guillermo Lasso, who called snap polls to avoid a possible impeachment trial for embezzlement. 

 

Socialist mentor

González, a lawyer, is the only woman to run for the presidency and has said her main advisor is Correa, who used an oil bonanza to fund high government spending during his 2007-2017 administration.

The ex-president – who has lived in exile in Belgium since 2017 – was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison for corruption over public contracts.

González, an avid cyclist and marathon runner, previously served as an assemblywoman and advisor to Correa.

She has said her priority will be to regain security in a country where the homicide rate doubled in 2022, after reaching 26 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

"We are going to rebuild that dignified homeland, that safe homeland, that homeland of peace, of love, of tranquillity," she said in celebration of her first-round victory.

 

Father's blessing

Noboa, the son of five-time failed candidate Alvaro Noboa, could become the youngest president in the country’s modern history after shocking the electorate with his surprise performance.

Rising from political obscurity, Noboa was catapulted into the limelight after he showed up to the only televised presidential debate wearing a bulletproof vest, claiming he had received death threats.

His father, who amassed a fortune selling bananas and boats, ran against Correa in 2006.

The elder Noboa wrote to his eldest son: "You were with me, now I am with you to achieve the deserved victory."

After receiving his father's blessing, the businessman replied: "God has given us the strength to work for the country, we have it in our blood, our only passion is to serve."

He has said he will prioritise job creation and vowed to roll out tax incentives and credit facilities to help small businesses.

Married with two children, Noboa studied Business Administration at New York University and obtained a degree in Public Administration from Harvard's Kennedy School.

 

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by Paola López, AFP

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