Title Map: 1997 Magellan Geografix
CNE, the National Electoral Council of Ecuador announced on Tuesday 21st February that Lenin Moreno, the representative of the incumbent Political Party, Allianza Pais (AP or Country Alliance) had gained 39.3% of the vote. He could not quite reach the required 40% (and a 10% buffer) of the vote to claim victory in the Presidential Election held on Sunday, 19th February.
There will now be a run-off between Moreno and Guillermo Lasso on April 2nd to determine who will succeed Rafael Correa who has ben in power for ten years.
Lasso, formerly head of Banco de Guayaquil, managed just over 28% of the vote and so, on the face of it, one might assume that Moreno is a shoe-in. This is far from being the case.
AP has a commanding majority of seats in the parliament. This is not to say that there is no opposition. Rather it is a case of fragmentation. There are over 8 opposition parties, some of which are a serious force as in “CREO” (Creating Opportunities), Lasso’s party. Others are pressure groups with grand aspirations. These opposition parties have historically found much to disagree upon rather than find common ground.
After 10 years of Allianz Pais, the country has seen a stagnation and then shrinking of its economy in the last three or four years. Being an oil economy, the recent commodity price fall has caused a serious hole in the treasury. National debt has spiralled and there is little to show for it.
Guillermo Lasso (Image: Quito Press.com) and Lenin Moreno (Image: El Ciudadano)
The economy relies heavily upon taxation of both its companies and citizens. The government also has an enormous appetite for import duty (45% unless there is just cause) and charges 5% if you want to take your cash out of the country. Much has left anyway. Miami is the true capital of Latin America.
Above and beyond this stifling environment, there are always issues around ‘Security of Tenure’. The international investment community is not prone to do business in Ecuador as a result. Both Peru to the south and Colombia to the north, receive over 50 times more in international investment.
One of the industries which cause the greatest amount of conflict in Ecuador is mining. The Environment has its own legal standing, which is widely admired as a step in the right direction. The understanding about mining is, however, paltry.
To the north of Quito, the country’s capital, is Junin, the world’s fifth biggest copper deposit according to surveys. The site is controlled by Codelco, the Chilean national mining company. They are very adept at stalling on development via environmental lobbyists. Hardly any Ecuadorians have ever heard of Junin.
Jorge Glas (left) with Rafael Correa (right) Image: Flickr / Presidencia
There is a general distrust of mining owing to fears of chemical usage, yet the only people who use Mercury and Cyanide for gold extraction are the Ecuadorians, often in partnership with Enami, the Ecuadorian National Mining Company. Both these chemicals are bad bedfellows with Shrimp, another important export.
Back to the politics!
Moreno’s running mate is Jorge Glas who was Vice-President to Correa. Glas is under a cloud of suspicion over numerous counts of corruption. Petroecuador, the national oil company, is the highest profile example and relates to the Panama revelations of Mossack Fonseca in 2015 as well as various other ‘arrangements’.
Moreno, himself, is widely admired. He has done a great deal for those with disabilities in the country, being wheelchair bound for about 20 years as a result of being shot in the back by thieves whilst out shopping.
The business community will be drawing a sigh of relief at the narrowest of escapes and will be rallying the opposition factions to get behind Guillermo Lasso and his ‘CREO’ Party.
Allianza Pais will be telling the country not to trust a banker.
South American elections, as with the rest of the world in the past couple of years, have all seen a shift away from leftist administrations. Will Ecuador buck the trend or continue the trend?