No one wanted the support of Lenín Moreno, 67, for this Sunday’s presidential election (7).
Ecuador’s current president is coming to the end of his term with a meager popularity of 7%, according to the Click Report research institute. This figure places him today as the worst leader in Latin America, losing even to Nicolás Maduro (dictator of Venezuela, with 12%) and Sebastián Piñera (president of Chile, with 10%).
“Moreno hasn’t even considered running for office because he knows he doesn’t stand a chance. The government ends up being a weak president, who failed to create a climate of governance or an image of national conciliation. Nor has he shown his ability to cope with the various crises of his administration, ”political scientist Simón Pachano told Folha.
On campaign posters in the streets of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, his image does not even appear. “Nobody wanted to take the picture with him, his direct support would prevent any candidacy”, concludes Pachano.
It was difficult to imagine the current scenario on the night of April 2, 2017, when the streets of the main Ecuadorian cities were filled with green flags, the color of the Country Alliance – the center-left party in power since 2007 and which Moreno has made part.
On an armed stage in an avenue in the center of the capital, Quito, the president-elect was applauded and even sang a song to celebrate the victory in the elections, confirmed that evening. Beside him – and showering him with praise – smiled, his political godfather, then President Rafael Correa (2007-2017).
The promise was that Ecuador would have a leader who followed the then president’s leftist project, but in a less authoritarian version, with fewer attacks on institutions and opponents. Moreno was known to be more calm and prefer to talk, unlike the firm hand of his godfather.
The reality, however, was different. Starting with the relationship with Correa himself, which quickly deteriorated. By not agreeing to be a puppet of the ex-president, and by encouraging the corruption investigation against the old administration to move forward, Moreno not only broke with his predecessor, but ended up attracting hatred from the former best man.
Moreno was Vice President for Correa’s first two terms, between 2007 and 2013.
From Belgium, where he lives, Correa has started campaigning against Moreno’s administration – the former president has been convicted of corruption.
The clash with the former godfather pleased a part of Ecuadorian society which rejected Correa, but divided support within the governing party. Due to the split within the Alliance country, Moreno never obtained a clear majority in the National Assembly to approve his plans.
The division is even maintained in the elections of 2021. The wing of the neighboring party of Correa supports the candidate of the former president, Andrés Arauz, who directs the polls.
Aliança País’ official name in the conflict, MP Ximena Peña, avoided appearing with Moreno during the campaign. Despite this, she is among the last ranked according to the polls, with around 1% of the voting intentions.
Moreno also disappointed his base by imposing fiscal adjustment policies and asking for an IMF (International Monetary Fund) loan of $ 4.2 billion (22.8 billion reais, at the current price). He said the measures were necessary because Correa borrowed the country to increase social spending during his tenure.
Among the steps Moreno took to address the public finance problem was increasing fuel, in 2019. The action led to a series of violent conflicts, mainly with the indigenous population.
This group took to the streets of Quito en masse to protest the increase – clashes with police left 11 dead and more than 1,500 injured.
With the protests, Moreno had to take a step back to reach an agreement with the indigenous unions and calm the streets. Despite this, a solution was pending for the clear division of society between the interests of the white population and that of members of the various indigenous ethnic groups that make up the Ecuadorian population.
It is in this scenario that the coronavirus pandemic has hit Ecuador fully. Images of collapsing hospitals and cemeteries and the streets of Guayaquil with abandoned coffins traveled the world and were one of the first images of what the virus would cause in the region. Then there was a peak in Quito too.
Moreno acted slowly and it took weeks to implement the first emergency measures. In the case of Guayaquil, he sent the military to confuse the collective funeral without being allowed to identify who was buried.
After a drop in the number of infections, epidemiologists are now pointing to the arrival of a second wave of contamination. Moreno has also been slow to negotiate vaccines, and so far only 8,000 Ecuadorians have received the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine. The remaining negotiations are uncertain and there is no national immunization schedule.
As of Thursday (4), Ecuador had recorded 252,390 cases of Covid-19, with 14,949 deaths – the country has 17 million inhabitants.
The Moreno administration still faces corruption charges during the pandemic. The attorney general’s office has opened investigations into the collection of fees at public hospitals and the embezzlement of funds for the purchase of supplies and ventilators.
Besides health concerns, Moreno has still not kept a series of campaign promises, such as the distribution of housing and social assistance.
He ended up frustrating the left by failing to respect his progressive proposals for redistributing funds. And, contrary to the promise of job creation, more than 600,000 Ecuadorians have found themselves unemployed in their management, according to data from the Ecuadorian Institute of Statistics and Census. The fact that he requested the IMF loan and did not fulfill his part of the deal ended up further eroding his image.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the center-right and the right blame it for the economic recession and the lack of pulse to adopt austerity policies. Ecuador continues to owe US $ 60 billion, which does not help the business environment and access to international lines of credit.
They also complain of accusations of corruption and increased insecurity, especially in large cities.