Businessman Noboa to face economic, security hurdles as Ecuador president By Reuters


© Reuters. Ecuadorian presidential candidate Daniel Noboa and his wife Lavinia Valbonesi, attend a presidential election night gathering, in Santa Elena, Ecuador October 15, 2023. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) – Business heir Daniel Noboa will have 17 months to revive Ecuador’s battered economy and tackle rising crime after winning the country’s presidential election on Sunday.

The thirty five-year-old Noboa vowed in his victory speech to rebuild the South American country, whose economy has struggled since the coronavirus pandemic, motivating many thousands of Ecuadoreans to migrate.

Markets were expected to receive news of Noboa’s victory with more enthusiasm than they would have a win by his rival, leftist Luisa Gonzalez, but analysts have said investors’ longer-term reaction could be swayed by Noboa’s cabinet picks, which are expected next week.

Noboa has pledged to attract foreign investors and create jobs for young people, but has also said he will balance meeting foreign debt obligations with the needs of the population.

Ecuador has repeatedly turned to multilateral funding since the pandemic.

Noboa has said he will tackle sharply rising crime with a new intelligence unit, tactical weapons for security forces, prison ships to house the country’s most dangerous convicts and a beefed up presence at ports and airports, hot spots for drug smuggling.

Increased violence, which the outgoing government blames on drug gangs, reached a crescendo during the campaign with the murder of anti-corruption candidate Fernando Villavicencio, who was shot to death in August as he left a Quito campaign event.

Noboa won more than 52% of the vote to Gonzalez’s 48%, with nearly all ballot boxes counted.

Noboa’s victory fulfills a long-held family ambition – he grew up accompanying his banana baron father Alvaro during the latter’s multiple failed attempts to become president.

Noboa resigned from the family firm to run for the national legislature in 2021, where he served until outgoing President Guillermo Lasso dissolved the chamber and called the election to avoid impeachment on charges he disregarded warnings of embezzlement at a state company. He has denied the charges.

He will be delighted to see Noboa at the presidential palace on Tuesday, Lasso said on social media late on Sunday.

“We should begin the transition process from now so you can get to know in-depth the economic, social and security situation in Ecuador,” Lasso said.

Noboa’s campaign said in a statement he would spend Monday meeting with advisors and future lawmakers belonging to his National Democratic Action party, before seeing Lasso on Tuesday.

Noboa’s truncated term will last from December this year until May 2025.

Noboa, Ecuador’s youngest president in recent history, would be able to run again in the regularly-scheduled 2025 contest.

Noboa made a special point to woo young people, with some supporters touting his victory as a fresh start for the country’s politics.

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