Leading presidential candidate Andrés Arauz met Tuesday and Wednesday with representatives of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. “I had the opportunity to explain my economic plan for Ecuador and why I disagree with some of the austerity measures they have recommended under the current loan program,” he said. “I also wanted to reassure them that we expect to meet our obligations but with a modification of terms.”
In his U.S. visit, Arauz, protégé of former president Rafael Correa, is also meeting with Ecuadorian migrants and giving a series of media interviews in English and Spanish. “With all the bad information coming from the campaign, I want to share with the world our plans for the new government. I want people to know who I am and what I stand for,” the 36-year-old center-left economist said.
In two interviews, Arauz for the first time described his differences with Correa. “My government will take a systematic approach to problems and not become involved in personality issues,” he said. “There were times, under Rafael’s administration, when I believe that personal feelings interfered with the governance of the country.”
In particular, Arauz mentioned Correa’s often-confrontational approach to the news media. “I believe this was a mistake. Freedom of speech and of the press is guaranteed in Ecuador and I will respect the right of the media to say what it believes.”
Arauz also said he favors a “new generation of leadership” in Ecuador. “There will be a break with the past, especially the disastrous leadership of the Lenin Moreno government, but we will rely on youth and new ideas as we rescue the country from the pandemic and the failing economy.”
He added that Correa remains a personal mentor and that the former president will be consulted “when it is appropriate.”
In an interview with a New York television station, Arauz defended his plan for a national program of digital currency. “My critics say we will abandon the dollar but this is not true. The plan is similar to digital currency systems in other countries with the intention of making financial transactions easier for the people. Every digital dollar will be backed by a real U.S. dollar. This is the law in Ecuador and I will respect it.”
Arauz said he does not recognize Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela, noting that the European Union has recently dropped its support for Guaidó. “Venezuela is not a major concern for me at the moment — they have many of their own problems. My focus will be on solving the problems in Ecuador.”
Responding to questions from a BBC reporter, Arauz said he expects to have a good relationship with the U.S. “The United States has been a good friend to Ecuador over the years and I expect that to continue. Personally, I have a great connection for the U.S. since I attended the University of Michigan.”
Arauz faces an April 11 runoff against the indigenous leader Yaku Perez or conservative banker Guillermo Lasso, a race that may go to a recount. Arauz led the 16-candidate field in the February 7 election with almost 33 percent of the vote and two polls show him defeating either Perez or Lasso in the runoff.