QUITO – A diversified opposition and a government movement that has been in power for 10 years on Tuesday officially kicked off their election campaigns with an eye toward the Feb. 19 presidential and legislative balloting, with voters eager for solutions to the country’s acute economic problems.
Eight presidential tickets kicked off their campaigns vying to succeed President Rafael Correa, who has been in power for a decade.
In one of the most noteworthy incidents, Social Commitment presidential candidate Ivan Espinel protested in front of Petroecuador’s Quito headquarters, placing a sign reading “Closed due to corruption” on the barricade blocking off access to the building.
A total of 21 corruption cases are under way against assorted officials linked to the state-run oil firm.
The candidate for the governing Alianza Pais, former Vice President Lenin Moreno, who is ahead in the voter polls, launched his campaign with visits to a retirement home promising to improve living conditions for the elderly.
In Guayaquil, former banker Guillermo Lasso, with the CREO movement, reiterated his plan to create a million jobs and to open more foreign markets for Ecuadorian products, saying “Just as an agreement was signed with the (European Union), one needs to be signed with the United States.”
Meanwhile, Social Christian Cynthia Viteri met in Quito with a group of artisans, promising to protect them from what she called “unfair competition from neighboring countries.”
At the kickoff of his campaign, former Quito Mayor Paco Moncayo, with the National Agreement for Change, mentioned his aim to reduce the size of the government and make structural changes in his prospective government based on consultations with the public.
Abdala “Dalo” Bucaram, with Fuerza Ecuador, said that he will fight for “values, the family, for restoring peace to the nation, because the children must smile again, to do away with a model of darkness and shadows that has been governing the nation.”
Former Foreign Minister Patricio Zuquilanda, with the Patriotic Society Party, meanwhile, rejected the corruption allegations linked with Brazil’s Odebrecht construction firm over the supposed payment of bribes in Ecuador.
In the coastal province of Manabi, former prosecutor Washington Pesantez met with fishermen and artisans at the launching of his own campaign.
A voter survey conducted in December by the Cedatos polling firm put Moreno in first place among likely voters with 35.6 percent support, followed by Lasso (22.3 percent), Viteri (10.9 percent) and Moncayo (6.9 percent), with the remaining candidates garnering less than 4 percent, all told.
Cedatos also found that undecided voters comprise 47 percent of the sample total and that Ecuadorians’ greatest concern is the economy, given that 2016 was a year fraught with difficulties, most of them resulting from external events: namely, the fall in the oil price and the appreciation of the US dollar, among others.