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Ecuador elects young businessman Daniel Noboa as President amid soaring violence

Daniel Noboa, a 35-year-old businessman, wins Ecuador’s presidential election, vowing to tackle rising violence and boost the economy.

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In the heart of South America, amid rich cultural heritage and immense biodiversity, Ecuador has welcomed a seismic shift in its political landscape.

The nation marked a historic moment on Sunday (15 Oct), electing 35-year-old businessman Daniel Noboa as President in the second-round elections.

Surpassing expectations with over 97% of the votes tallied, Noboa clinched the presidency by a decisive four-percentage-point margin against his left-wing rival, Luisa González, becoming the youngest president in the country’s storied history.

In a victory speech that resonated with hope, Noboa committed to ‘bringing back smiles and peace to the nation.’

The fresh-faced leader, a scion of banana magnate Álvaro Noboa, made notable political strides despite his sparse experience. His academic credentials, boasting a business administration degree from New York University and master’s degrees from a triumvirate of elite institutions — Harvard, Northwestern, and George Washington Universities — complemented his appeal.

Noboa’s ascent has been propelled by the palpable desire for change among young voters, disenchanted by the status quo, symbolizing a new era of promise and challenge.

However, critics have highlighted his familial ties to one of Ecuador’s most influential families, which has raised questions about his political independence.

During his campaign, Noboa pledged to confront the powerful gangs operating within the country by isolating the most dangerous criminals on offshore prison ships. He also vowed to enhance security at Ecuador’s borders and ports to disrupt major drug-trafficking routes.

Ecuador’s President-elect, Daniel Noboa, voted wearing a bulletproof vest due to a series of political assassinations in the violence-plagued nation. (Photo: AFP)

Its economy has faced several challenges, including vulnerability to global oil prices, as it’s a member of OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). The country experienced economic difficulties due to reduced oil prices in previous years, and the COVID-19 pandemic also severely affected it, causing a substantial economic contraction, increased unemployment, and heightened poverty rates.

To reinvigorate the economy, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, Noboa committed to creating job opportunities for young Ecuadorians, including incentives for national and foreign companies. The election campaign was dominated by concerns about security, as violence in Ecuador reached alarming levels.

The spike in violence began three years ago but reached a distressing peak with the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio just days before the first-round vote in August. The murder rate in Ecuador quadrupled between 2018 and 2022, with opinion polls indicating that security was the primary concern for voters.

During Lasso’s tenure, there was a significant surge in violent fatalities, with 4,600 recorded in 2022, marking a historic high for the nation and doubling the 2021 figures. In the initial six months of 2023, the National Police registered 3,568 violent fatalities.

Flanked by heavily armed soldiers, President-elect Noboa, in his victory speech, emphasized his commitment to rebuilding a country beset by violence, corruption, and hatred. Nevertheless, analysts caution that his limited political experience will pose significant challenges in addressing Ecuador’s security issues and its struggling economy.

Ecuador typically has four-year presidential terms, but this election was held earlier than scheduled due to the dissolution of the National Assembly by outgoing President Guillermo Lasso. As a result, Noboa will serve the remaining term initiated by Lasso, which concludes in May 2025. He may then stand for a second term.

Noboa’s election marks a departure from the traditional political landscape in Ecuador, signifying a desire for change among voters, despite his limited political background. As the youngest president in Ecuador’s history, he faces the formidable task of steering the nation toward peace, stability, and economic recovery during his abbreviated term.

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