Ecuador is gearing up for a crucial presidential election runoff Sunday, amid an unprecedented security crisis.
The election is a choice between two vastly different candidates: leftist Luisa Gonzalez, representing the Citizen Revolution Party, and surprising front-runner, millionaire Daniel Noboa.
Gonzalez, who secured 34% of the vote in the initial round in August, vows to reinstate extensive social programs introduced by her mentor, exiled former President Rafael Correa, and utilize $2.5 billion in international reserves to rejuvenate the flagging economy.
Noboa, previously an underdog, is the son of banana magnate and politician Alvaro Noboa. He has pledged to create jobs, particularly for the youth, attract foreign investments and employ technology to combat the alarming rise in crime.
The incoming president faces the daunting task of addressing Ecuador’s escalating crime crisis, with the homicide rate surging 245% from 2020 to 2022, according to Open Democracy – a UK-based independent media platform and news website.
Ecuador closed 2022 with the highest homicide rate in its history, 26 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants, according to official data and the numbers continue to rise despite Guillermo Lasso’s government resorting to a state of emergency in an attempt to control the problem.
The campaign was marred by the assassination of anti-corruption candidate Fernando Villavicencio on Aug. 9, a crime that deeply shocked the nation. Villavicencio, a former journalist, had been a vocal critic of the connections between organized crime and government officials. The infiltration of Mexican and Colombian drug cartels into local gangs further complicates the situation, with seven suspects in Villavicencio’s murder recently killed in prisons in Guayaquil and Quito.
Throughout the campaign, both conducted caravans and rallies across the country, heavily guarded by security measures.
More than 13 million citizens are expected to cast votes, aiming to replace Lasso, who dissolved the opposition-controlled legislature after facing corruption allegations.
The new president will have a short 16-month term before potential reelection in 2025.