Citizen Revolution’s González could win in first election, polls show; Purging corrupt prison guards; High waves and strong winds will start the week
According to composite results of nine opinion polls, Luisa González of the Citizens Revolution is closing in on a first-round victory in the presidential cross death election. She leads the field of eight candidates with the support of 38.8% of respondents, far ahead of second- and third-place candidates, Otto Sonnenholzner, at 14.7% and Yaku Pérez, at 14.2%
In presidential elections, under Ecuador’s election law, a candidate can win an outright victory in the first primary with a 40%+one vote total and a 10% lead over the second-place candidate.
According to pollster and political consultant Fabricio Bentancourt, González has gained momentum in the last two weeks of July. “It was not a large move but, if it continues, it may be enough for her to avoid the October runoff,” he says. “The Correistas know that winning the first election is their best chance of taking the presidency. They remember, painfully, the last election, where they were far ahead of Guillermo Lasso but could not add enough votes in the runoff. They understand that the ceiling for their support is about 40%.”
In addition to González, Sonnenholzner and Pérez, the other five candidates and their composite poll numbers are: Fernando Villavivencio, 11.7%; Jan Topic, 7.4%; Xavier Hervas, 6.9%; Daniel Naboa, 5.7%; and Bolivar Armijos, 0.6%.
Bentancourt still thinks González has a “significant climb” to reach 40%, adding this election is one of the hardest in recent memory to predict. “The level of apathy and cynicism is very high and, like in Lasso’s victory two years ago, there could be a large last-minute shift in the final days. All eyes will be focused on the number 40.”
Purge of corrupt prison guards is recommended
Following another deadly riot in in one of the country’s prisons, this one in Guayaquil’s Litoral penitentiary, several officials and experts are calling for a widespread purge of prison guards.
“We are increasing our efforts to investigate and eliminate corrupt guards who are suppling weapons, cell phones and other unauthorized items to prisoners,” Guillermo Rodríguez, director of the National Prison Service (SNAI), said Saturday. “We have fired 16 guards this year but this, obviously, is not enough.”
Rodríguez added that the prison service is acquiring surveillance equipment, including drones and cameras, to help detect illegal activities by guards. “We are following a model provided by other countries who have confronted and corrected similar issues with their guards.”
Some security experts claim that more equipment won’t solve the problem. “There needs to be top-to-bottom reform of the prison system, which includes adopting international standards that Ecuador does not adhere to,” says Jorge Núñez, co-director of the University of Cuenca’s Kaleidos Research Center. “We also have to eliminate endemic problems related to how the National Police train and evaluate the guards.”
Until reforms are instituted, says Núñez, it will be impossible to deal with the control criminal gangs currently have in the prisons. “We must reduce the contact guards have with prisoners and monitor the contact that is necessary. Under the current systems, the gangs are using the prisons to operate their drug operations, to order murders of their enemies and gather information about government operations.”
He adds: “Today, bribery of the guards is rampant in the entire prison system. How can you expect guards who make $800 or $900 a month to turn down bribes of thousands of dollars? Fundamental changes must be made.”
High waves and strong winds start the week
Those living on the coast are being warned of rising sea levels and high waves while those in the inter-Andean valley are being told to expect high winds. The National Meteorology Institute (Inamhi) says the conditions will continue at least until Wednesday.
With the sea level already 20 centimeters above normal due to rising water temperatures, Inamhi advises that wave as high as 1.8 meters (six feet) could cause flooding in low-lying area. The wave action is the result of storms thousands of miles away in the South Pacific, meteorologists say.
The provinces under a flood alert are Esmeraldas, Manabi, Santa Elena, Guayas, El Oro and Galapagos.
Winds as strong as 80 kph (50 mph) could affect the inter-Andean valley from the Colombian to the Peruvian borders, Inamhi advises. Residents of Loja, Azuay, Pichincha, Carchi, Cañar, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Imbabura and Bolívar are being warned of possible structural damage due to the winds. On Saturday, there were more than 100 reports of damage to roofs and vehicles in Quito alone, with trees and power polls reported down.