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Ecuador Presidential Race Pits Anti-Abortion Socialist Against Former Sniper – Bloomberg

  • Luis Gonzalez became the frontrunner when Correa backed her
  • Former soldier Topic appeals to voters angry about crime
Presidential candidate Luisa Gonzalez and running mate Andres Arauz after registering their candidacies on June 13.
Presidential candidate Luisa Gonzalez and running mate Andres Arauz after registering their candidacies on June 13.(Dolores Ochoa/AP Photo)

Stephan Kueffner, Bloomberg News

QUITO
EnergiesNet.com 06 16 2023

A socialist who hates abortion, a trained sniper and an anti-oil activist are among the favorites to win Ecuador’s presidential race in upcoming elections. 

Luisa Gonzalez, a little-known former lawmaker, suddenly became the frontrunner last weekend when she received the backing of former President Rafael Correa and his powerful socialist party. 

Gonzalez, 45, is pledging to boost spending on welfare and public works, as Correa did during his 2007-2017 presidency. However, she is conservative on social issues, and has spoken out against abortion, including for rape victims. 

She’s facing Jan Topic, an entrepreneur who says he trained as a sniper when he served in the French Foreign Legion. He’s pledging a crackdown on the criminals behind a surge in drug killings, and has the backing of one of Ecuador’s biggest conservative groups, the Social Christian Party. 

Another strong contender is Yaku Perez, an environmentalist who campaigns for indigenous rights and is hostile to oil and mining projects. He came third in the 2021 election. 

Read more: Ecuador Presidential Candidate Says He’d Honor ‘Legitimate’ Debt

Polls show that Correa’s Citizen Revolution is Ecuador’s most popular party, and it won control of the nation’s two biggest cities in recent mayoral elections. But Gonzalez risks a repeat of what happened in 2021, when other parties united against Correa’s candidate in the runoff, handing him a narrow defeat. The election is scheduled for Aug. 20. 

Aside from one virtually unknown socialist candidate, Bolivar Armijos, the other candidates will compete for anti-Correa sentiment for a chance to face Gonzalez in the runoff on Oct. 15, said Ruth Hidalgo, political scientist at UDLA university in Quito. 

Voters are angry about the upsurge in violence, and Topic has the potential to make it to the runoff with his tough-on-crime message, said political scientist Simon Pachano at FLACSO university in Quito. Topic is trying to replicate the formula of El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, the most popular leader in Latin America, who jailed tens of thousands of alleged gang members, Pachano said. 

No poll has been released since the final pool of eight candidates was completed this week. In any case, Ecuadorian voters tend to decide their vote at the last moment, Pachano added.

Read more: Ecuador Presidential Hopeful Pledges to Renegotiate Oil Deals

The new election was triggered when current President Guillermo Lasso, facing down impeachment, dissolved congress two years into his four-year term. Correa, who now lives in self-imposed exile in Belgium, is barred from running after he was convicted for graft in absentia. 

The other candidates are: 

  • Otto Sonnenholzner, a former vice president and entrepreneur close to the Guayaquil business elite
  • Fernando Villavicencio, a journalist and lawmaker who pledges to make tackling corruption and crime his priority
  • Xavier Hervas, agro-industrial entrepreneur who came fourth in 2021
  • Daniel Noboa, former lawmaker and son of banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa
  • Bolivar Armijos, a socialist lawyer once close to Correa before their relationship soured

bloomberg.com 06 15 2023

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