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Presidential frontrunner Nebot breaks with Moreno, opposes economic reforms

Former Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot is rejecting the economic reforms announced last week by President Lenin Moreno, including the elimination of gasoline and diesel subsidies. It is the first time that Nebot, considered one of the favorites in the 2021 presidential race, has publicly criticized Moreno on a major policy issue.

Jaime Nebot

On Monday, Nebot followed up on comments he made last week, calling Moreno’s reforms “confused and damaging to poor people.” Although he did not offer specific solutions for resolving the current political crisis, he said that Moreno “better get his house in order soon.”

One early poll for the February 2012 national election shows Nebot with a narrow lead over Guillermo Lasso who lost narrowly to Moreno in the 2017 election.

In a Friday radio interview, Nebot claimed that Moreno demonstrated a “disturbing lack of comprehension” about economic policy and that the order to raise fuel prices is an example. “There are two types of economies, one is a compensation economy and the other is a transparent economy,” he said. “In the compensation economy, the state charges taxes and imposes high tariffs and, on the other hand, provides subsidies to the people. In a transparent economy, real prices are applied to all products but tariffs are eliminated and the IVA tax is reduced.”

He added: “When you confuse the two models it is the poor people who get hurt.”

Nebot, who is opposed to the government’s deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), says that Moreno has “worked himself into a box he may not be able to escape.”

Political commentator Jorge Masvidal believes Nebot’s break with Moreno on economic policy is a “political positioning move” on Nebot’s part. “I don’t question that what he says is his true belief but I think he is making a political point by moving away from the policies of Moreno and Lasso to increase his electability,” says Masvidal. “His support of the right of abortion in the case of rape, which Lasso opposes, is another example of this. He wants to distance himself from the conservative label, which describes Lasso, and be seen as a populist.”

Masvidal, who was an advisor to former president Rafael Correa, says Nebot’s opposition to Moreno’s economic plan is an easy call. “You could even call this a cheap shot but it serves his interests as a candidate.”