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The heir to a banana empire won Ecuador’s presidential election this week, following a poll that was plagued by political assassinations and drug-fueled gang violence, the Washington Post reported.
Daniel Noboa defeated his rival, Luisa González, a former leftist lawmaker loyal to former President Rafael Correa, in a runoff vote. At 36 years of age, Noboa will become Ecuador’s youngest president.
Noboa’s election comes at a time of increased youth participation in politics and a desire for new leadership to address pressing issues, including job opportunities and security.
The president-elect – who also served in the country’s legislature – campaigned on a platform to tackle Ecuador’s security crisis by overhauling the prisons’ governing body and establishing a centralized intelligence unit. González, meanwhile, vowed to restore some Correa-era ministries and address the main causes of crime through social programs.
The election outcome comes as Ecuador – a peaceful country just a few years ago – has become a crucial transit node for narcotics and descended into a de facto warzone as rival gangs vie for dominance. The violence has contributed to a surge in migration to the United States.
The violence also spilled into the election, when presidential candidate and former lawmaker, Fernando Villavicencio, was fatally shot days before the first round of voting on Aug. 20. Earlier this month, seven suspects in his killing were found dead in prison.
Analysts say, meanwhile, that Noboa will face a challenging task in tackling the violence in Ecuador: He is expected to serve as a caretaker president, completing the remaining 18 months of outgoing President Guillermo Lasso’s term.
In May, Lasso avoided impeachment by dissolving the legislature, a constitutional move that enabled him to rule by decree but required a new election within six months. Lasso opted not to run for re-election.
Meanwhile, political commentators said that Noboa’s victory also signals a rejection of the socialist, pro-Correa party that still remains a force in the South American nation.
Correa, who lives in exile in Belgium, is both praised for combating inequality and reviled for his authoritarian tendencies. He was sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison on bribery charges.