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Ecuador, just a few years ago, was an oasis of relative prosperity and peace in the region. More recently, however, it’s become overly dependent on oil and, therefore, prey to the dramatic economic swings that often occur in energy commodities. Violence has skyrocketed as the South American country, sandwiched between narco-states Peru and Colombia, has become a center of the cocaine trade. Corruption is endemic. Opportunities for youth are now rare.
Now, a fresh face has emerged to tackle these challenges in the form of 35-year-old President-Elect Daniel Noboa, who won Ecuador’s presidential election in the second round of voting last month, CNN reported. Many hopes are pinned on this young man’s lapels.
Noboa will take office amid extraordinary instability. Lame-duck President Guillermo Lasso triggered the presidential election after he dissolved the Ecuadorian legislature to avoid impeachment. Anti-corruption presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was then assassinated days before the first round of voting in August.
Now, Noboa will serve out the remaining 18 months of Lasso’s term, meaning he will need to move quickly to convince voters that he should remain their leader. He will, in a sense, be running an election campaign as soon as he takes office, noted the North American Congress on Latin America.
“He must deal with the insecurity,” Ecuadorian political scientist Santiago Basabe told Al Jazeera. “To some extent, he should promote public health, support the most impoverished sectors, and grant opportunities for higher education. Other than that, I don’t think he can do much more in this given time.”
A center-right businessman and banana fortune heir – his father ran for president unsuccessfully five times – Noboa is pledging to increase spending on social programs, crack down on crime, and solicit foreign investors to reinvigorate the economy, wrote Oilprice.com.
Noboa arguably has the wind at his back. He defeated left-wing candidate Luisa Gonzalez, an ally of popular former president Rafael Correa, because voters want bold ideas and change, not incumbents and business as usual, the Economist wrote. Correa was sentenced to eight years in prison on corruption charges but has escaped justice by living in exile in Belgium. Ecuadoran authorities are now seeking his extradition.
To reduce crime, Noboa will need to uproot networks of foreign and local cocaine traffickers who ship their product out of the country’s Pacific Ocean ports, explained the Council on Foreign Relations. That illegal commerce has fueled a spike in homicides to 40 per 100,000 people, one of the worst rates in the Western Hemisphere. More Ecuadorians have been migrating northward to the US and elsewhere to escape that violence, too.
Accordingly, he plans to “militarize” the country’s ports and borders, according to teleSUR.
More violence could be the result in the short term. But law-abiding Ecuadorians might tolerate it as long as they are not on the receiving end anymore.