Presidential runoff campaign gets down and dirty as Lasso and Moreno exchange charges; Correa says he might invoke the ‘death cross’

Feb 24, 2017 | 18 comments

Only two days after the election commission officially announced the April 2 runoff, both of Ecuador’s presidential candidates were claiming that the opposition was playing dirty. Even president President Rafael Correa got into the act, suggesting he may invoke a little-known constitutional prerogative, “the death cross,” if things get out of hand.

President Rafael Correa admits campaign frustrations.

CREO candidate Guillermo Lasso charged Alianza País’ Lenin Moreno with employing the “dirtiest politician in Ecuador — President Correa.” Moreno shot back that he was sick and tired of Lasso campaign social media attacks on himself and his family and that he wasn’t going to take it anymore.

Correa’s reference to the “muerte cruzada,” or death cross, came in an interview in which he said a Lasso victory, which he conceded was “very possible,” could lead to a political crisis. Sounding like a reference from an early Star Wars movie, the measure can be used by a president in extreme situations to dissolve the National Assembly and order new elections, including one for president. “It is very unlikely that this would be necessary, but if the opposition misbehaves in an extraordinary way, it is a presidential option,” Correa said.

Lenin Moreno

If the death cross were to be employed, Correa said he might consider running again for president.

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Speaking in Cuenca and Quito, Lasso repeated his promise to repeal many of the new taxes added during the Correa administration. “They have strangled the Ecuadorian people by restricting the ability of business to grow and prosper and to increase employment.” Among the taxes Lasso says he would eliminate are the exit fee on money wired out of the country or carried out by travelers, luxury taxes on imported goods, surcharges on imported goods, and the recently imposed “plusvalía” tax on real estate capital gains. He also claimed that the government, under Moreno, will not roll back the one-year VAT tax increase, from 12% to 14%.

Guillermo Lasso

In stops in Manabí Province, Moreno said he would concentrate his efforts to assist the under-represented in Ecuador, including the poor, the handicapped, and the elderly. He pledged more funds for housing for first-time buyers and charged that a Lasso administration would eliminate funds for health, education, and elder care. “He would return the country to the dark ages, where the wealthy have all the advantages and none of the responsibilities,” he said. Late in the afternoon, responding to Lasso, Moreno promised that the VAT tax would return to 12% in May and that all surcharges on imported goods would expire, as planned, in June. The VAT tax was increased last year following the April 16 earthquake.

In his interview, Correa said that the Petroecuador scandal was the reason the presidential election is going to a runoff. “We lost two points because of that, all lies, of course, otherwise Lenin wins in the first round,” the president said. “We can expect more of the same in the coming weeks.”

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