The battle lines have been drawn even before all the candidates are known for next February’s presidential election.
“Ecuadorians are over-taxed and over-regulated by a government that has grown far too large,” says Cynthia Viteri, an announced center-right candidate for president. Her position is echoed by Guayaquil banker Guillermo Lasso, widely seen as the opposition candidate with the best chance to unseat President Rafael Correa’s País party in the coming election.
“We need to reduce the size of government, eliminate the tariff surcharge, and stop taxing money that citizens want to take out of the country,” says Lasso.
Former vice president Lenin Moreno who, along with current vice president Jorge Glas, are the leading País candidates to succeed Correa, counters that tax rates are not out of line with other Latin American countries. “Look at what this government has accomplished in 10 years,” he says. “We have reduced poverty to one of the lowest rates in the region. We are one of safest countries in the hemisphere. We have built roads, schools and hospitals that are the envy of our neighbors. All this has been accomplished by a smart, fair tax system,” he says. He adds that European countries with high tax rates enjoy the highest standard of living in the world.
Moreno, who serves as special envoy to the Secretary General of United Nations for Disability Issues, concedes that some government regulation “may have gone too far” and needs to reexamined.
Viteri counters, “I think Mr. Moreno has been out of the country for too long and does not understand the pain that Ecuadorians are suffering. Business are unfairly burdened by the government and this is affecting the livelihoods of millions of Ecuadorians.”
Leftist parties, including two representing indigenous populations, are demanding greater freedom of speech, a moratorium on mining, and a bigger voice for the poor in water and land rights issues.
Early polls show Moreno leading the field of possible presidential candidates, with Lasso in second and Viteri in third or fourth position.