Acknowledging the “brutal impact” of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic depression, President Guillermo Lasso told Ecuadorians Monday that he will act quickly to “restore the country to good health.” In his inaugural address, he repeated a campaign promise to vaccinate nine million residents within his first 100 days in office and to eliminate all vestiges of authoritarian government.
Following his inauguration, Lasso signed dozens of executive orders, installed new military leadership, and suspended the Communication Law that was a centerpiece of the administration of former president Rafael Correa.
In a show of solidarity with the indigenous Pachakutik movement, Lasso left the National Assembly chamber arm-in-arm with new Assembly president, Pachakutik’s Guadalupe Llori.
Much of Lasso speech was a thinly veiled attack on the policies of Correa. “Never again, will the people of Ecuador be subjects of a corrupt and authoritarian regime that puts the interests of government ahead of those of the people,” he said. “My government will abide by the principles of democracy with a goal of serving the interests of the citizens, not of those in power.”
Lasso also pushed his free market economic agenda, saying he would work quickly to establish free trade agreements with friendly governments. “Ecuador must stand for a healthy balance in the life of the community, a balance between the causes of its people, and a balance between economic growth and social justice,” Lasso said in his speech. “The cornerstones of my government will be the foundations of a prosperous and equitable country.”
Following the speech, the president said he would work with Assembly to “strip away the heavy web of bureaucracy” he claims makes it difficult for businesses to increase employment. “We must tear down the barriers to employment and provide jobs for the people. We must disassemble the restrictions erected during the last 16 years that punish both workers and industry.”
In his speech, Lasso also claimed that the national leadership had ignored the welfare of the people. “Ecuador has become a country where the culprits fatten their pockets while the most innocent, newborn Ecuadorians, cannot even fill their bellies, where chronic child malnutrition is among the highest in the region, a country with lacerating inequalities between rural and urban areas,” he said. “We have become a country that has failed its youth in education and in creating opportunities, that keeps its retirees in the most humiliating poverty and oblivion, where being a woman is not only a factor of disadvantage but of existential danger.”
Lasso’s attacks on Correismo focused on the accumulation of power by a single leader and his followers. “They dedicated themselves to the obscene cult of the caudillo, that ‘messiah’ who supposedly knows everything, what is right and what is wrong, what is good for the people and what hurts the people, an supposed-enlightened person who acts and thinks for everyone, who has all the questions and all the answers,” he said. “My mission is to establish a government with policies that will never allow this to happen again.”
In comments after his address, Lasso said he has full confidence that new Vice President Alfredo Borrero will deliver on the government’s promises of mass Covid-19 vaccines. Borrero, a Cuenca physician, spent last week with officials of the Ministry of Health planning the vaccination plan.