Lenin Moreno’s campaign strategy is clear: emphasize the social and infrastructure progress Ecuador has made in the last 10 years but, at the same time, make the case that his presidency will have a different personality than President Rafael Correa’s.
“Look at what we have achieved during the Alianza País years,” Moreno told a crowd Saturday in El Oro Province. “Since the election of Rafael Correa, Ecuador has invested more in hospitals, schools, highways, and public safety than any other country in Latin America. We have become one of the only countries in the region that is energy independent.”
Despite the accomplishments, Moreno is keenly aware of voter dissatisfaction with Correa’s style of governing and many of his policies.
“I will be a different president than Rafael because we are different people,” he said Friday in an interview on RTC television. “When he came into office, we needed a fighter to get things done. We needed an aggressive style of governance. Now, after so much work has been accomplished, the country needs a new style, one of reconciliation and sometimes compromise. This is the future that I represent.”
Moreno must also answer to expansion of government regulation, particularly of business, new taxes, controls on the news media, and an aggressive borrowing program to fund government projects — all factors in forcing a runoff, according to polls taken just before last week’s election.
“I am aware that there is legitimate concern about certain actions taken by the government in recent years, and I believe they deserve scrutiny,” said Moreno, careful not to criticize Correa directly during his RTC interview. “I believe we need to offer tax relief to businesses and reduce regulation, but this must be done carefully, not in the broad-brush way advocated by Lasso.”
In interviews in the past, Moreno has disagreed with Correa’s policies toward the news media as well as freedom of assembly and speech in general. “I believe it is not a good use of his (Correa’s) time to insult and sue journalists he disagrees with,” Lasso said in an interview with a Swiss newspaper in 2015. “I believe in an open society that allows citizens to say what is on their minds as long as they obey the law.”
Moreno defends the government’s borrowing practices and says that much of the infrastructure and social progress of the last 10 years would have been impossible without it. “Yes, we have acquired debt but look at the hydroelectric dams, the schools, and the universities we have to show for it,” he said. “This money did not go into the pockets of corrupt politicians like it did in the past.”
He fires back at Lasso’s charges that the debt is crippling the economy. “When he was in the government in 1999, the debt was 85%, more than double what it is today,” Moreno says. “He is no one to talk about debt.”
Nonetheless, Moreno says it is time to make some spending cuts, to reduce the debt.
Mostly, Moreno’s campaign approach is one of reminding Ecuadorians what the country was like before Correa was elected. “Do we want to return to the poverty, the poor education, the poor health care we had then? I don’t think so,” he says, answering his own question.
“Ecuador has improved from a road and bridge infrastructure ranking of 13th in Latin America, to number three. Our murder rate ranked 14th in 2006 and today we rank third in all of Latin America. We lead the world in poverty reduction. Are these things we want to turn our back on? My campaign is one that looks forward and hopes to improve on what this country has achieved. My opponent wants to turn back to a failed past,” Moreno says.
To see yesterday’s article on the Lasso campaign, click here.