Banana fortune heir Daniel Noboa claims victory in Ecuador election

Noboa defeated socialist rival Luisa Gonzalez just over two months after a prominent presidential candidate was assassinated.

Ecuadorian presidential candidate Daniel Noboa wearing a bulletproof vest holds hands with a woman wearing a white bulletproof vest
Ecuadorian presidential candidate Daniel Noboa wore a bulletproof vest during the election [Santiago Arcos/Reuters]

Daniel Noboa, heir to a banana empire, will be Ecuador’s next president after defeating socialist Luisa Gonzalez, an ally of exiled former President Rafael Correa.

“From tomorrow, Daniel Noboa starts work as your new president,” the 35-year-old Noboa told supporters during brief remarks in the seaside town of Olon as votes from Sunday’s election were counted.

“Tomorrow, we start work for this new Ecuador, we start working to rebuild a country seriously battered by violence, by corruption and by hate,” he added.

Noboa worked for his multimillionaire father’s sprawling banana empire before entering politics and becoming a surprise qualifier for the run-off election. He will be the country’s youngest-ever president.

He ran on a campaign promising to improve Ecuador’s struggling economy and create jobs. He also proposed using prison ships to house prisoners.

Noboa’s rival, socialist Luisa Gonzalez, an ally of ex-President Correa, would have been Ecuador’s first woman president.

She had run on a platform of re-introducing social spending – such as free medicine and worker protections – that had been popular during Correa’s decade in power, before he fled the country facing corruption charges.

Noboa won more than 52 percent of the vote, while Gonzalez had about 48 percent with more than 90 percent of ballot boxes counted.

“Daniel Noboa, our profound congratulations, because this is democracy,” Gonzalez told supporters in Quito, calling on Noboa to keep his promises to students and the elderly.

Noboa and Gonzalez cast their votes wearing bulletproof vests, just over two months after another presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, was murdered on August 9. Villavicencio, a journalist and anticorruption campaigner, had been polling in second place.

In the lead-up to the election, it was revealed that seven suspects in Villavicencio’s assassination had died in prison.

Increasing violence in Ecuador – largely attributed to competing Mexican and Colombian drug cartels – was understandably on many voters’ minds as they headed to the polls.

Violence in Ecuador has also extended to Indigenous people opposing the expansion of mining as well as oil pipelines and wells, even after Ecuador enshrined the “rights of nature” in its constitution in 2008.

In August, Ecuadoreans voted to reject drilling for oil in the Amazon rainforest, a referendum result described as “historic” by environmental activists.

Noboa’s win will only see him serve 16 months in office after the current President Guillermo Lasso called a snap vote to avoid possible impeachment for alleged embezzlement.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies