AMERICA/ECUADOR - Presidential vote and environmental referendum: No to drilling in the Amazon; two candidates for the second round

Monday, 21 August 2023

Quito (Agenzia Fides) - Ecuador still in shock over the assassination of candidate Fernando Villavicencio (see Fides, 10/8/2023) voted yesterday, Sunday August 20, for the first round of presidential elections and for the referendum on authorizing or prohibiting oil drilling in the Yasuni National Park. With nearly 58% of the votes counted, 59.14% of Ecuadorians voted against drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The two candidates who came out of the polls and who will compete for the presidency in the second round are Luisa Gonzalez, candidate of the Socialist Party and "runner-up" to former President Rafael Correa, sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption and a refugee in Belgium where he obtained political asylum, and the right-wing candidate, Daniel Noboa, a member of a wealthy family of banana exporters. The third and fourth places are occupied respectively by the journalist Christian Zurita, who had taken the place of Fernando Villavicencio, killed on August 9, and Jan Topic, a former member of the French Foreign Legion, who had focused his electoral campaign on security and the fight against organized crime. The issue of crime was nevertheless at the center of the campaign, with the elections taking place under tight security and under siege. In Ecuador, gangs linked to Mexican and Colombian cartels are clashing over the drug market and using prisons as a center of operations, where bloody massacres have claimed the lives of 430 inmates since 2021. But it is above all the economic conditions that worry Ecuadorians in a dollarized economy, with a quarter of the population working informally or unemployed. The two issues, poverty and crime, are linked. Voters seem to have preferred the candidate who, by improving economic conditions, intends to prevent crime, to those who support a "strong hand" policy against criminal organisations. The second round of the presidential election will take place on October 15. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 21/8/2023)