Two presidential candidates with quite radically different visions are in front of voters in this Sunday’s elections in Ecuador, as the country is being pulled into one of two possible choices.
Andres Arauz, a left-wing economist with a program to increase the social safety net, prevent corruption and capital flight, and Guillermo Lasso, a ring-wing banker. He would steer Ecuador towards an unregulated free-market economy and continue to siphon the country’s resources into off-shore tax havens.
After years of neoliberal policies inflicted on the nation under President Lenin Moreno’s mandate, Ecuador’s social, political, and economic situation has seen a drastic deterioration.
Instead of continuing the legacy of progressive, pro-people, pro-Latin American integration policies carried out under the Citizen’s Revolution of former President Rafael Correa, Moreno aligned himself with the continent’s most retrograde forces and implemented a series of neoliberal measures, especially following the 4.2 billion dollar agreement reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Andres Arauz of the progressive Union for Hope (UNES) alliance won the electoral first round and received 32.72 percent, while Lasso received 19.74 percent. This 35-year-old economist is currently pursuing a doctorate in financial economics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He is supported by former president Rafael Correa and runs in the elections for a coalition of the left-wing Democratic Center and Social Commitment Force parties.
During his campaign, the leftist candidate has emphasized the importance of promoting an economic model focused on job creation to ease the situation of millions of citizens who are “worried, anguished, and hurt” by President Lenin Moreno’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the financial front, Arauz is committed to stop Ecuador from becoming an international money laundering center and strengthen dollarization. He also promised to consolidate the national financial system and end corruption in banks and capital flight. Regarding Ecuador’s foreign relations, he is clearly heading towards Latin American integration.
The UNES alliance he presides has been under a tremendously grotesque smear campaign by Lasso supporters using scare tactics to instill fear among voters, warning about his “socialist” tendencies, about “Ecuador turning into another Venezuela,” and using paid Venezuelan immigrants to scare potential voters away from his program.
Meanwhile, the Creating Opportunities (CREO) candidate Guillermo Lasso, a banker who is into his third election bid, has finished second in the 2013 and 2017 elections, has devoted most of his campaign to attacking the Union for Hope (UNES) candidate and promoting a neoliberal economic program.
The right-wing candidate presented himself as a self-made man who learned from a young age to work. Lasso vowed to be concerned about Ecuadorian families and the growing levels of unemployment among youth and women. He has, throughout his campaign, tried to separate himself from the Moreno administration, which he has supported for the past four years.
“A review of corporate & real estate records in Florida shows [Guillermo] Lasso-linked shell companies’ holdings have increased since 2017, raising questions over the legality of Lasso’s candidacy.” @JakobJohnston #Ecuador #EcuadorDecide #Elecciones2021Ec https://t.co/pQTdzOUfVE
— CEPR (@ceprdc) March 31, 2021
Lasso also proposes keeping the US dollar as free circulation currency in Ecuador and promoting “local and foreign investment to reactivate public works and the private sector.” The millionaire affirmed he would eliminate a tax hurting small producers while ignoring that his own party proposed it in the National Assembly.
As if to prove a point right before vote day arrives, Lasso has recently been involved in a legal process concerning tax evasion and off-shore properties. Lawmakers from Manabi province recently filed a complaint against him for alleged tax fraud before the provincial Prosecutor’s Office. And to round the picture, a few weeks ago, international and local outlets also revealed that the CREO candidate is linked to hiding assets in tax havens.
On Sunday, whichever candidate wins will be tasked with getting Ecuadorians back to work and the economy back on track, two significant challenges. The new president will also inherit a deeply divided country and a precarious health situation.