Lasso faces a ‘hard sell’ on referendum questions; Ecuador is close to three trade agreements; Thousands of luminarias at Santo Domingo Plaza

Dec 7, 2022 | 20 comments

According to several experts, President Guillermo Lasso faces a stern challenge to win “yes” answers to his eight referendum questions. The questions will be included on the February sectional election ballot.

“The circumstances of this referendum are very different than the referendums presented by [former presidents] Correa and Moreno,” says Williám Méndez, University of Guayaquil economics professor. “All the questions passed easily on those ballots but the success was due mostly to the high popularity enjoyed by Correa and Moreno at the time of the voting. Lasso doesn’t enjoy that popularity today. His positive numbers are in the 20% to 30% range.”

More than 5,000 luminarias will be lit tonight at Santo Domingo Plaza to honor the Virgin Morenica del Rosario.

On the other hand, Méndez points out that the opposition’s popularity is even lower. “The Correistas, who are Lasso’s main adversaries, will oppose all questions, believing they represent a life preserver’ for the president. Their problem is that they are even less popular than Lasso, with the support of only 8% or 9% of voters.”

Despite the political unpopularity of the protagonists, analyst Pedro Donoso believes several of the questions will pass easily due to their subject and wording. “It is hard to object to extraditing drug criminals to face trial in other countries,” he says. “Who wants them here? And who doesn’t want to protect water resources?”

Donoso adds that the extradition question is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” due to alleged connections by several Correistas with drug kingpins. “Most people are not aware of the hidden agenda here.”

Other questions are more complicated and less likely to enjoy strong support, Donoso says. “The issue of the Cpccs [Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control] is not well-understood by most people yet is probably the most important on the ballot. It could change the balance of power between the president and the National Assembly if it passes, since it essentially neuterizes the Council’s power. If Lasso enjoyed more public support it would pass easily but since he doesn’t, the outcome is in doubt.”

Newspaper columnist Daniel Crespo agrees with Méndez and Donoso. “This [the referendum] will be a hard sell for the president but it will determine his authority for the balance of his term,” he says. “The country is in political gridlock and the president and opposition are struggling for control. Lasso is presenting the consultation as a means of fighting crime but only two questions deal with this and not very effectively in my opinion. If he can pass the questions related to the Citizen Council and drug crime deportations it will strengthen his position.”

Three trade agreements are close to signing
Ecuador’s Production and Foreign Trade Ministry says that trade agreements with Mexico, China and Costa Rica will be signed in the coming weeks. “We have overcome a disagreement with Mexico on fishing issues and are working out minor details with Costa Rica and China and expect to announce formal agreements very soon,” the Ministry said Tuesday in a statement.

The Ecuadorian Federation of Exporters says it is “pleased” with the government’s efforts to reach agreements. “Past governments have not pursued these accords with the same energy as the current government and, as a result, we believe we will see significant growth for many Ecuadorian industries,” Fedexpor President Felipe Ribadeneira said. “In the past, major issues were difficult to resolve and talks broke down. That is not the case today since this government has the political will to finish the deals.”

The Mexican agreement was reached Monday when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to allow Ecuadorian shrimp, tuna and bananas into the Mexican market with some restrictions. “We wanted more but we are happy that the impasse was broken,” Ribadeneira said.

Thousands of luminarias tonight at Santo Domingo Plaza
Cuencanos celebrate the 89th anniversary of the coronation of the Virgin Morenica of Rosario Wednesday, December 7. More than 5,000 luminarias will be lit beginning at 6 p.m., honoring the so-called “queen of Cuenca and Azuay Province.”

The Municipal Tourism Foundation expects as many as 10,000 to attend the Morenica “festival of lights” organized by the Dominican Community of the Santísimo Rosario Convent and the University of Azuay. Following the celebration, there will be a concert honoring the virgin at the Central School.