by Andrea Cegna
Daniel Noboa, member of one of the Country’s richest families and representative of corporate and oligarchic power, is the new President of Ecuador. His father Alvaro, the banana magnate, tried five times to sit in the presidential chair, but never succeeded. Instead, Daniel, 35, won the run-off election on Sunday 15 October, despite Luisa Gonzalez being the top vote-getter in the first round. However, this unsurprising result once again exposes the divisions on the left in the Latin American Country, which revolve around, but are not limited to, the pro-Correa dichotomy and, above all, environmental and rights issues. The issue is very complex because Noboa will only have 18 months to govern, as these are early elections, and there is a real risk that his executive will be more concerned with campaigning for the 2025 elections than solving the Country’s problems.
The real fear is that the President will decide to act on issues with a strong media impact in order to strengthen his consensus. “The Correa-Correa split cannot simply be read as a clash between left and right,” explains economist Alberto Acosta, former Minister of Energy and Mines and President of Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly in 2007-2008. “The Correa Government, it should be remembered, was not really left-wing, but rather had a ‘progressive’ approach aimed at modernising capitalism. Moreover, the internal logic of the Revolucion Ciudadana party,” the economist continues, “did not question ‘caudillismo’, so much so that the candidate Luisa Gonzales was imposed directly from above by Correa, without any attempt to activate a democratic process,” Acosta concludes.
Noboa’s victory marks a turning point in the Country’s political history: although Ecuador’s economic and oligarchic powers have always had a hand in politics, they have never put one of their direct representatives in the presidential chair. At the same time, Luisa Gonzalez represents the most conservative wing of Correismo,” says Carolina Viola, Professor of Political Science at the Catholic University. Allied with the right in the fight against the right to abortion, she has also openly sided against the Popular Council for the Defence of the Yasumi National Park. During the election campaign, unlike González, Noboa sided with the Popular Consultation, which demanded and won a referendum in the first round that oil should not be extracted from Yasumi. So much so that the candidate from Guayaquil (the Country’s economic capital) won in areas with an indigenous majority and where opposition to extractive policies is strongest.
For Professor Viola, “the majority of voters did not find the answers they were looking for in the progressive movement. Correismo has aged rapidly and fails to excite and convince the younger voters, who therefore seem to have voted for Noboa. I would like to point out that Ecuador is indeed a case in point, because after an unpopular right-wing government, the progressive wing does not win the elections. This should lead to a reflection within Correismo, but there does not seem to be any will to do so,” concludes the Professor of Political Science at the Catholic University. The indigenous movements took part in the Constituent Assembly elections with the Pachakutik (four seats), but did not present a presidential candidate or give any indication of voting in the run-off, thus demonstrating their distance from the two candidates.
For economist Acosta, “the illusion of real change is fleeting. The problems are so deep and the answers of the candidates on the ballot so superficial that one can already predict a deepening of the crisis. The popular sectors will therefore have to continue building alternatives from below, resisting neoliberal, extractivist and patriarchal policies,” predicts the former Minister of Energy and Mines. According to Viola, “Ecuador is going through a double crisis: security and economic. In the Assembly, Revolucion Ciudadana is the first party, but its composition forces the government to negotiate and create different majorities for each project. In the absence of strong party forces, the real risk is that from time to time we will witness forms of buying and selling of votes and consciences, as we already saw in the last legislature”.
Organised crime and political violence played a significant role in the election campaign. Before the assassinations of Agustín Intriago, the mayor of Manta, and then presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, Luisa González was polling at around 40%. After the two murders, the consensus for the ‘correista’ candidate collapsed. According to Decio Machado, sociologist, political consultant and member of the Universidad Nómada del Sur, “the serious upheaval in the electoral ecosystem caused by the criminal networks involved in drug trafficking has also affected other candidates. It has boosted some of them, just as it has severely punished others. For example, Daniel Noboa, who ran a positioning campaign in the first round aimed at strengthening his image with a view to the 2025 elections, was strengthened by these events and managed to get into the election and then win it,” recalls Machado.
On the cover photo, The new President of Ecuador, Daniel Noboa © Asamblea Nacional del Ecuador