By Liam Higgins
The political effort to mount a unified campaign against the return of Correismo, personified by Andrés Arauz, suffered a serious blow this week as Yaku Pérez intensified his attacks on presidential rival Guillermo Lasso.
“Do not even dream that we will ever support Lasso,” Pérez said Wednesday at a press conference. “Lasso is the face of organized crime and the bank holiday that devastated Ecuador. Never Lasso, never.” He added: “I am the only candidate who can beat Arauz and Correismo in April. Lasso would fail miserably like he has before.”
Pérez is challenging the February 7 election results that leave him 33,000 votes, or less than half of one percent, short against Lasso for an April 11 runoff spot against Arauz. He is currently leading a protest march through Ecuador’s sierra region to Quito to protest the election results.
The anti-Correismo coalition, which includes fourth-place candidate Xavier Hervas and almost all of the 12 other presidential candidates in the election, is watching in dismay as Pérez mounts a series of vitriolic attacks against Lasso. In particular, Pérez is taking aim at Lasso’s banking career and possible role in the 1999 banking holiday and subsequent switch from the Sucre to the U.S. dollar that wiped out the savings of millions of Ecuadorians.
“This is a terrible turn of events for those who want to stop Arauz and Correa, which seems to be about everyone except for the Correistas,” says Raúl Estévez, political consultant and former deputy foreign minister. “With a solid front against him, I think it would be very difficult for Arauz to win the runoff. The support of the loser of the Yaku – Lasso race, plus that of Hervas and the other candidates would probably be insurmountable.”
Pérez’s attacks on Lasso hit a nerve with many Ecuadorians, Estévez says. “The banking crisis in 1998 and 1999 is a painful memory for many, especially those who lost money. Lasso’s role in the crisis as president of Banco Guayaquil is still subject for debate but the reputations of all bankers suffered in the minds of most people.”
Estévez continues: “Obviously, those who want to stop Arauz at all cost wish Pérez would stop the attacks but it does not look like he will. There’s no doubt that they help Arauz and probably make him the winner in April.”
Defeated presidential candidate Gustavo Larrea agrees. “Pérez’s challenge of the February 7 results is perfectly legitimate but the attacks on Lasso mean that Arauz will be the next president no matter if he faces Lasso or Pérez. Bad blood is taking a toll.”