Speculation about who will lead Ecuador’s “Citizens’ Revolution” in four years, when Rafael Correa’s second full term as president ends, has been quieted, at least temporarily.
Correa’s heir apparent appears to be Gabriela Rivadeneira, elected last week as president of the National Assembly. She succeeds former Cuenca mayor Fernando Cordero, who has led the assembly during Correa’s first six years in office.
Only 29-year-old, Rivadeneira has risen rapidly through the ranks of Correa’s Alianza PAIS political movement, apparently freezing out others interested in succeeding the president.
Rivadeneira was elected to the Otavalo city council in 2004 as a member of the indigenous movement Pachacutik party. She left Pachacutik in 2006 to support Correa is his first presidential term and was reelected to the Otavalo council in 2008, serving as deputy mayor and later as vice prefect of Imbabura province.
In 2011 when she was hand-picked by Correa to serve as Governor of Imbabura and was also chosen to represent the youth wing of PAIS.
Rivadeneira was elected to the national assembly February 2013, running at the top of the PAIS ticket, which allowed her to compete successfully for the position of assembly president, despite her lack of experience. She was strongly supported by Correa, according to political insiders.
Her election did not come without controversy, even within PAIS. An assembly rule that states that the president of the body must be 35-years-old had to be overlooked. Behind the scenes, her gender and the fact that a woman has never been elected president of Ecuador, has also caused some hand-ringing within PAIS.
According to a recent profile in the El Comercio newspaper, Rivadeneira says she was a graffiti artist of political messages when she was younger, painting messages opposing free trade agreements and advocating closure of the U.S. military base in Manta. She says she was an avid reader of Uruguayan novelist and political philosopher Eduardo Galeano.
After becoming a member of PAIS, the party paid for her to travel to Libya, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile and Argentina as part of her political training. She was a member of the Ecuadorian delegation that accompanied Rafael Correa to Hugo Chávez’s funeral in March.
When Rivadeneira assumes leadership of the National Assembly May 24, she will assisted by two vice presidents, also women, Rosana Alvarado and Marcela Aguiñaga.
Photo caption: Gabriela Rivadeneira talking to a supporter and with President Correa.