Ecuador swears in conservative president amid economic crisis

Guillermo Lasso says he will promote new private sector investment and vaccinate 9 million people against COVID-19 in his first 100 days.

Guillermo Lasso, a right-wing former banker, has promised an ambitious COVID-19 vaccination plan as Ecuador has only inoculated 3 percent of its population to date [Dolores Ochoa/AP Photo]

Conservative Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso took office on Monday promising to revive an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic and create jobs for a population weary from years of painful austerity measures.

The 65-year-old former banker in April beat out socialist economist Andres Arauz, who had promised to restore the generous social spending programmes of former President Rafael Correa, who was in power for a decade until 2017.

“Ecuador must also mean a promise of balance in common life, balance between the causes of its people, balance between economic growth and social justice,” Lasso said in a speech after his swearing-in.

“Two cornerstones that will be the foundations of a prosperous and equitable country.”

Guillermo Lasso arriving with his wife Maria de Lourdes and daughter Maria Mercedes for his inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly in Quito, Ecuador [Dolores Ochoa/AP Photo]

But Lasso is taking over at a time of tight government finances and with a Congress led by the Indigenous Pachakutik party, which has often opposed mining and oil industry projects in the country.

Lasso has said he plans to promote new private sector investment and will seek a review of a $6.5bn agreement with the IMF to soften some of its terms.

He has also promised an ambitious COVID-19 vaccination plan.

He wants to vaccinate nine million people in his first 100 days in office to boost an economy that was crippled by quarantine measures for much of the last year.

Lasso said his new government has reached out to pharmaceutical companies in the United States, China and Russia in hopes of reaching that goal.

“It will not be a government that only promises,” he said.

So far, the country has vaccinated just 3 percent of its total population of 17 million.

King Felipe VI of Spain arriving at the inauguration ceremony [Dolores Ochoa/AP Photo]

On foreign policy, Lasso said his main priority would be to integrate Ecuador into the Pacific Alliance trade bloc that includes Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, which are among the most trade-friendly countries in Latin America.

“Ecuador declares that its doors are open to world trade,” Lasso said.

His inauguration was attended by dignitaries including Spanish King Felipe VI, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and the president of Haiti, Jovenel Moise.

Source: News Agencies