Daniel Noboa won, prolonging the right-wing cycle in Ecuador

By Gustavo Veiga / Página 12

A genuine product of the establishment, Daniel Noboa, won Ecuador’s presidential election. At the age of 35, he bested his father Álvaro, the richest man in the country, who had failed in five attempts and could not gain access to the government. Luisa González, the candidate close to Rafael Correa, did not reverse the slightly favorable trend for the businessman in the polls. But she consolidated a level of support for the future, which was far from the right-wing discourses that tended to predict the end of progressivism. The businessman trained in Business Administration from New York University surpassed his opponent, the lawyer and former assembly member like him, by a percentage that was around 4.5 percent of the votes. With 90.9 percent of the votes counted by the electronic system, the results only changed by hundredths (52.25 to 47.75% at that point) and allowed Noboa to reach the Carondelet Palace.

In this short term in office he will complete for outgoing president Guillermo Lasso – beginning November 25 and ending on May 24, 2025, he will have to solve problems in the country of pressing complexity. They range from the recovery of territories where drug trafficking cartels move as parallel states, to the issue of employment and the insertion of young people into the labor market. Perhaps part of his success is explained by the vote of this age group for his candidacy. He went from being a marginal candidate for the presidency before the first round to a candidate who should be taken seriously. One of those spare parts that the elites in the countries of our region always have on hand.

Ecuador experienced a political day without irregularities or negative events to highlight, as the vice president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Enrique Pita, explained to Página/12: “The process developed peacefully, without significant setbacks that could alarm the citizenship regarding incidents that affect its transparency.” The elections and the tranquility that surrounded them do not commiserate with the current violent situation that the country is going through, with crime parameters that increase day by day and are clearly perceived in regions such as the northern border with Colombia or the Pacific coast.

Election analysts pointed out that Noboa knew how to “connect with the youth,” although now, as president-elect and not as a candidate, he must fulfill the promises he made to those who attend high school or study at the university. González, anticipating what is to come, reminded the winner of that commitment after congratulating him on the victory. “Seriousness before the Ecuadorian people is the first thing, the fact of how politics is done. The people heard that 100 percent of high school graduates will have a place at the university, and that retirees were offered a minimum pension of $450,” said the Citizen Revolution candidate.

The new president took advantage of a polarized country that expressed itself at the polls between two possible options. A consolidated party identity like that of Correism, which presented itself almost without allies, and the different expressions of the right that perceive themselves as anti-corruption champions and supporters of a tough line against crime. On the main TV networks that followed the outcome of the elections, debated was whether Noboa might take on the proposal of Jan Topic, one of the candidates who ran in the first round.

Topic has points in common with the new president. They are both millionaires and young, they are interested in the world of finance – Topic is an economist – but unlike Noboa, the man who presented himself in August as leader of the alliance for ‘A country without fear,’ has a military background, burst into the political scene with its heavy-handed dialectic and under the nickname of the Ecuadorian Rambo. In Topic, the new president could have an ally.

Noboa has an additional curiosity that is related to his origin. This year he modified his CV to having been born in Guayaquil on November 30, 1987. That is, five days after taking office he will turn 36 years old. The businessman, according to his own words, was actually born in Miami. A moderate representative of the National Democratic Action (ADN) coalition, before entering the first round he was only predicted to have 4% of the votes, which placed him behind five other candidates. His chances of reaching the second round seemed to fade although the unforeseeable happened in a country that was divided and hit by political-social circumstances. He reached an unexpected 23.4%, which he more than doubled in the runoff, where he barely surpassed 52 percent. A meteoric electoral progress that is understood by the difference in votes that he obtained in the province of Pichincha – the second largest on the electoral roll – where this capital resides, and in other minor ones in the interior of the country. He even won in the Galapagos Islands, where there are more or less the same number of inhabitants as there are Komodo dragons.

In Pichincha, Noboa surpassed González by 60.25% to 39.75% of the votes. The most curious thing is that in the largest voting district, Guayas, where Guayaquil, the most populated city in the country is located, the candidate for the Citizen Revolution party won by a margin of 51.75% to 48.29%. And furthermore, in the third district of Ecuador, Manabí, those favoring González was greater than that of Noboa in Pichincha: 69.64% compared to 34.36%.

As soon as he was recognized as the winner, the president-elect said that he “thanked” those who supported his country project, a project that in his own words is “young, and new” and was “unlikely” last August when he entered the second round. He also thanked his wife, Lavinia Valbonesi, his father, the businessman who made the export of bananas the cornerstone of the family holding, and in his improvised speech as head of state, he thanked God and added that “The purpose of this project is to restore a smile to the country, restore peace, restore education to its youth, to be able to restore employment to the number of people who are looking for it today…” Phrases that can turn against you over time, as has been happening in similar circumstances in other nations in the region, where the new ended up being the old.

Noboa chose his place in the world on the beautiful beaches of Olón, in the coastal province of Santa Elena, where he had voted and where he celebrated in the middle of a fireworks show, to say his first words. He was wearing a white T-shirt, one similar to the one he wore during the campaign under his bulletproof vest, the strongest symbol of a country where life is worth very little, immersed as it is in a nightmare of violence that has grown at terrifying rates in recent years.

Citizen participation in the election may be the first antidote to this epidemic of drug traffickers, mafias, local gangs and daily armed confrontations. Out of a register of 12,394,574 voters, 10,318,643 showed up to vote. The difference between the two figures that perhaps would have produced a different result in the elections – although it is counterfactual – raised the number of absentees to 2,075,931 citizens. They are the ones who risked being fined or losing their rights to carry out procedures in the public sector because they will not have the certificate proving their presence at the voting precincts.

Ecuador in a year and a half will go to the polls again. Noboa has just that much time to begin to resolve the serious conflicts that this country of the Andean community comprised of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia are going through.