fter his nomination as a leftist candidate in the presidential election last August, he liked to describe himself, mischievously repeating the taunts of his opponents, as a “complete stranger”. At 35, Andrés Arauz Galarza is not a newbie in politics. In the shadow of his mentor, the former socialist president Rafael Correa, he was, from 2007, one of the young figures of the “citizen revolution”, financial policy advisor at 22, director of the bank central two years later, before joining the government as Minister of Knowledge, then Culture. This heterodox economist, who defines himself as “patriot, democrat and progressive”, intends to definitively close the dark parenthesis opened by Lenin Moreno, elected in 2017 on the balance sheet of Rafael Correa before rallying, to the amazement of his camp, to the neoliberal order.
In the wake of the 2019 uprising against his austerity policies, violently repressed (7 dead, 1,343 injured, hundreds of arrests), the popularity of the incumbent has literally collapsed: the candidate he supports, Ximena Pena , does not even reach, today, 2% of voting intentions. Lenin Moreno, however, did not spare his efforts to block the road to his former companions: the electoral authorities did not announce until December 8 the certification of the Union for Hope candidates in the presidential and legislative elections of the 7 February. As for Rafael Correa, who, since his exile in Belgium, had hoped to run as a candidate for the vice-presidency, he was sentenced in the spring to eight years in prison for corruption – “political persecution”, denounce his supporters.
facing a business owner with 49 offshore companies
At the head of the polls, Andrés Arauz seems to widen the gap with the right-wing candidate, Guillermo Lasso, 65, a multimillionaire banker, candidate for the third time. In 2017, he was for a time proclaimed the winner by a polling institute belonging to the Bank of Guayaquil of which he is the main shareholder. Intoxication operation quickly forgotten by his opponent, who, for lack of a clear majority, relied on the conservative camp to legitimize his arrangements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). An investigation by “Pagina 12” highlights the links of this businessman with 49 offshore companies created between 1999 and 2002 in Panama, the Cayman Islands and in Delaware, in the United States: it accuses him of having enriched himself when ‘he was Minister of the Economy during the financial crisis of 1999 which ruined many Ecuadorians and pushed 1.5 million of them into exile, out of a population of 13 million. In a few years, Lasso’s fortune increased from 1 to 31 million dollars, according to the Argentinian daily. This oligarch, who now manages and controls $ 4 billion, is a fervent Catholic: a member of Opus Dei, he opposes the legalization of abortion, still criminalized in Ecuador, even in cases of rape or malformation of the fetus. Distant, devoid of charisma, Lasso will repeat, in this campaign, that “the elections of February 7 are decisive to banish once and for all a failed model of government, called socialism of the twenty-first century”.
on the right, again, billionaire Álvaro Noboa does not give up, after the rejection of his candidacy by the National Electoral Council (CNE). His party, Social Justice, was disqualified for lack of sufficient signatures. As a result, one month before the ballot, the Electoral Disputes Tribunal decided in the first instance to dismiss four of the five members of the CNE, “a decision that violates the democratic stability of Ecuador”, contest the parties.
The third man: Yaku Pérez, the protector of the environment
Arauz also has to reckon with a serious opponent on the left: Yaku Pérez, 51, a lawyer by training, environmental activist engaged in the struggles for the right to water, slayer of extractivism. Leading the anti-austerity protests in October 2019, he became the spokesperson for Pachakutik, the political branch of the powerful Confederation of Indigenous and Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie). Originally from Cuenca, in the highlands of southern Ecuador, he was, before embarking on the presidential race, prefect of the province of Azuay. His speech on sustainable development, the climate emergency, environmental protection as well as his promises to establish a universal basic income and to decree a moratorium on illegitimate debts appeal to the youngest voters.
The Corréist candidate takes a more prosaic line, making the breaking of the agreement concluded between Lenin Moreno and the IMF his main battle horse: the conditionalities imposed by the financial institution in return for a loan of 6.5 billion dollars have led, he assures, to a “self-induced” recession. His project: revive growth with a sharp increase in public spending, the introduction of a wealth tax, the end of privatizations and capital controls to prevent money from leaving the country. His rejection of the dogma of the free market irritates financial circles: “While the economy is just beginning to heal from the triple shock (Covid + oil + debt), a populist economic policy program would only make the economy more sicker, “choke, in a note, analysts from the Bank of America. In the event of victory, the left’s budgetary room for maneuver will be narrow, in a country dependent on oil exports and under the supervision of the dollar, which no longer has its own national currency since 2000. Never mind: Arauz says he is ready to turn to new donors: “We are already in dialogue with Chinese development banks,” he warns. In a country hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic (more than 14,000 dead), the left-wing candidate, infected in turn, had to postpone the launch of the campaign for a few days. His electoral caravan finally hit the road, a month to the day before the election. With a horizon: to get out of the “conservative restoration” imposed, in recent years, on the country and the continent.