By Alexandra Valencia
QUITO, Apr 8 (Reuters) – Ecuador celebrates on Sunday the second electoral round to define between the left-wing economist Andrés Arauz and the conservative Guillermo Lasso the new president of the Andean country for a period of four years.
Arauz, a protégé of former President Rafael Correa, won the first presidential round in February with 32.7% of the vote.
The president who takes office on May 24 will have to face an economy with serious liquidity problems, aggravated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, high unemployment, increasing poverty and a large external debt.
Next, key data of the candidates:
At just 22 years old, Arauz joined the Correa government. He went through middle management positions in the Ministry of Economic Policy, the Central Bank of Ecuador and the Planning Secretariat until he was Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent and Culture.
In the last four years he devoted himself to studying a doctorate in Financial Economics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, but returned to Ecuador before completing his scholarship to be a candidate, a decision that was never among his plans.
Using the same socialist discourse as his mentor, the 36-year-old economist has promised to return social assistance and spending programs to the country, partly by rolling back an austerity plan agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and using the resources deposited in outside the Central Bank of Ecuador (BCE).
Born in Quito to a middle-class family, Arauz has said that, if he wins the elections, Correa – who has resided in Belgium since 2017 – will be his advisor, but has made it clear that “the decisions are made by the president and the president will be I”.
On his way to the presidency of the oil nation, he has tried to distance himself from the shadow of the former president in the face of criticism from his opponents.
“We are part of a political project, but now we have to focus on the future,” Arauz recently told a television channel. “There is a generational renewal in our government team, we are young prepared.”
Arauz – married, father of a child and fan of the accordion – could become the youngest president of Ecuador.
Together with his team, the journalist Carlos Rabascall, has promised to deliver $ 1,000 to one million families, restructure debts and ensure employment for young people, as well as collect taxes from large companies and increase the regulatory power of the State.
After two previous attempts to reach the presidency of Ecuador, Lasso has used his experience as a banker and businessman to promote an economic proposal more open to the market, with which he has promised to create thousands of jobs and improve the salary of Ecuadorians.
As the youngest of 11 siblings, Lasso began working at the Guayaquil Stock Exchange at the age of 15 and quickly climbed the ranks until he became president of Banco de Guayaquil for almost 20 years.
Married with five children, he also had a brief stint at the local Coca-Cola subsidiary and the representative in Ecuador of Hino, a Japanese truck brand. In addition, he held the Ministry of Economy for a few weeks in the government of Jamil Mahuad, which faced the 1999 banking crisis and gave way to the dollarization system.
Lasso, 65, has sought to reach the presidency since 2013. That year he came second, far behind Correa, who was re-elected with more than double the advantage. In the 2017 elections, he narrowly lost to the current president, Lenín Moreno.
In his campaign for the ballot on Sunday, he adjusted his conservative speech and included in his proposals topics such as greater labor equity, combating discrimination based on sexual orientation and defense of the rights of nature and animals. In addition, it has promised social aid for farmers, entrepreneurs and indigenous people.
He promises to generate 2 million jobs in the four years of government and progressively reduce taxes. He has described the socialist model as a “failure” and has said that he will seek a national dialogue to face the crisis.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; edited by Carlos Serrano)