35-Year-Old Daniel Noboa Elected As Ecuador’s President

Car horns blared in Quito on Sunday as Daniel Noboa, 35, became Ecuador’s youngest-ever president-elect, promising to “restore peace” to a country torn by a brutal drug gang war.

After the election commission pronounced him the winner and socialist competitor Luisa Gonzalez conceded defeat, Noboa stated that “tomorrow we begin work to rebuild a country that has been severely hit by violence, corruption, and hatred.”

Ecuador, long a tranquil sanctuary between major cocaine exporters Colombia and Peru, has seen violence rise in recent years as rival groups with ties to Mexican and Colombian cartels compete for dominance.

Since February 2021, at least 460 inmates have been massacred in jails, with many being beheaded or burned alive in riots.

In a display of force, gangs are dangling decapitated corpses from city bridges and detonating car bombs before police stations.

In August, anti-graft and anti-cartel presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was killed in a volley of submachine-gun fire after delivering a campaign address.

He had been polling in second place.

Following the assassination of former journalist Villavicencio, a state of emergency was imposed, and Noboa and Gonzalez campaigned and voted in bullet-proof vests and with extensive security personnel.

On Sunday, Noboa told supporters in his hometown of Olon in the southwest that he wanted to “restore peace… bring back education to the youth” and generate jobs.

‘Destroyed’ Country

Ecuadorans voted for 10 hours Sunday with no reports of violence, watched over by some 100,000 police and soldiers.

“May we elect the best president because (he or she) will govern a country that is destroyed… to address all these problems such as insecurity,” Indigenous voter Ramiro Duchitanga told AFP in Cuenca in Ecuador’s south.

“It is a critical election,” added Freddy Escobar, a popular 49-year-old singer in Quito, citing crime as his main worry. “I am voting in fear, not knowing what will happen.”

According to polls, the major concerns of Ecuadorians are crime and violence in a country where the murder rate has doubled in the four years leading up to 2022.

Noboa, who received almost 52 percent of the vote according to a near-complete count, was chosen to fill the term of incumbent Guillermo Lasso, who called a quick election to avert possible impeachment for alleged corruption.

According to the law, Noboa is eligible to run for president again in 2025-29, as well as the one after that.

Both runoff candidates were relative unknowns in politics.

Noboa is the son of one of Ecuador’s wealthiest men, who has five failed presidential attempts.

The president-elect, who has only two years of legislative experience, describes himself as “center-left” yet supports neoliberal economic ideas.

He ran on the ticket of the National Democratic Action Alliance, a brand-new coalition of parties from the center and left of the political spectrum.

Ecuador has a 27 percent poverty rate, with a quarter of the population unemployed or working in an informal sector.

Opinion polls list unemployment as voters’ second concern.

On Sunday, Noboa repeated his intention to “give progress to a country… that has all the elements to be a global example.”

Gonzalez was chosen by socialist ex-president Rafael Correa, who governed from 2007 to 2017 and now lives in exile in Belgium to avoid serving an eight-year jail sentence for graft, which is another huge issue in the country.

Gonzalez received the most votes in the first round of voting in August, with 34%, followed by Noboa with 23%.

On Sunday, she offered her “profound congratulations” to Noboa, “because this is democracy.”

Addressing supporters in Quito, Gonzales also said she would not be claiming fraud.

Analysts believe that with only 13 legislators in his corner out of 137 in parliament, Noboa will face an uphill battle to get through any reforms.

In a country of about 18 million people, voting is mandatory for 13.4 million eligible voters, and the election authorities said that turnout was higher than 82 percent.

Diana Atamaint, the director of the National Electoral Commission, vowed a “immediate” inquiry after photographs on social media revealed a person attempting to fill out numerous ballots in support of Noboa.

Written by PH

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