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Will a Miami scandal with a fugitive connection deny Lenin Moreno the presidency?

By Jim Wyss

With just 10 days to go before Ecuador’s presidential elections, ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno is still leading the polls but unlikely to avoid a runoff amid a punishing corruption scandal with Miami ties.

Lenin Moreno on the stump in Cuenca.

A series of polls released this week give Moreno more than a 10-point lead over his nearest rival, banker Guillermo Lasso.

A Feb. 8 poll by Quito-based CEDATOS – Gallup found Moreno has 32 percent of the vote versus Lasso’s 21 percent. Former Congresswoman Cynthia Viteri and former Quito Mayor Paco Moncayo had 14 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Similarly, a poll by Perfiles y Opinion gives Moreno 35 percent of the vote, versus Lasso’s 16 percent, Viteri’s 14 percent and Moncayo’s 7 percent.

Those figures will be the last ones to be officially released, as the government declared a polling blackout starting Wednesday.

If Moreno can win at least 40 percent of the vote and keep a 10-point lead over his nearest rival, he can avoid an April 2 runoff. But most analysts don’t think that will happen.

The desire for change after the decade-long leadership of Rafael Correa and a lingering corruption scandal are likely to keep sinking Moreno’s numbers in the waning days of the race, said New York-based Eurasia Group.

“All of this suggests that Moreno will likely fall short of the threshold needed to win in a first round, which is his best shot to win given a divided opposition field that will unify in the second round,” the political analysis firm wrote.

Vice President Jorge Glas

Correa’s one-time vice president and handpicked successor, Moreno has vowed to continue his boss’s socialist policies but without Correa’s combative style. Moreno, who has been in a wheelchair since a botched robbery in 1998, is seen as a mild-mannered antithesis of the mercurial Correa.

But Moreno is being weighed down by his running mate, Jorge Glas, Correa’s current vice president. Glas has been been under a cloud of corruption since last year, when eight former and current officials were investigated for money laundering and bribery for their roles in manipulating contracts with the state-run Petroecuador oil company.

At the time, the company was under Glas’ purview. Last week, former Petroleum Minister Carlos Pareja appeared on social media videos filmed in Coral Gables hooked up voluntarily to a polygraph machine and accusing Glas of knowing about Petroecuador corruption, but without providing any hard proof.

Glas has denied the charges, saying a “corrupt” Pareja is trying to “create a circus” as the opposition has failed to get traction in the polls.

Glas and Correa are also accusing him of working with Roberto and William Isaías to try to skew the election. The two brothers have political asylum in South Florida, but are wanted in Ecuador for embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from their failed bank.

As leftist South American leaders have been losing their grip in South America (most notably in Brazil and Argentina), many are looking to the Ecuador race to see if the trend continues. For the last decade, Correa, a charismatic, U.S.-trained economist known for bashing Washington and winning elections, has led the nation, which is best known for the Galapagos Islands and for being the diplomatic refuge of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

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Credit: Miami Herald, www.miamiherald.com

  • Maria

    How many more anti Moreno “articles” is CuencaHighLife going to publish before the election?

    • Dan

      This is not an anti-Moreno article, it simply tells the truth. The polls show that Moreno’s support has dropped by 10% in the polls since September, a lot of it because of the scandals.I support Moreno but believe he made a mistake having Jorge Glas as his running mate. It could cost him the election. Sorry you don’t like the news.

      • Jason Faulkner

        CEDATOS isn’t a poll. They’re a PR outfit for Lasso. Even the owner of Marketing stated so publicly last week and has filed a defamation lawsuit.

      • Maria

        Moreno was in Cuenca the other day for a rally at Parque de la Madre. Huge rally along Simon Bolivar to San Blas too. Where was CuencaHighLife? Crickets…

    • Jason Faulkner

      This is just a reprint of a right-wing wishful thinking article from the Miami Herald. Since the debate, reputable analysts agree (CEDATOS is not included in this bunch) that there will be no runoff.

  • baba free

    So what, even I knew about the corruption with Petroecuador and I wasn’t even around..You think these other guys are clean??? Lasso who was the Minister of Finance when the country went down in 1999???

  • Dee Dee Jackson

    Time for Cynthia Viteri to put a stop to all this… and along the way give Guayaquil the recognition it deserves.

    • Jason Faulkner

      Cynthia Viteri is a puppet for Jaime Nebot which is why she’ll never pull more than 20% of the vote. Nobody outside of Guayaquil still believes that populist nonsense (while they sit on flooded dirt roads with no water or sewage 17 years later).

  • Jason Faulkner

    The only “link” between AP and the PetroEcuador scandal is a fugitive who made lots of accusations (after being indicted and fleeing the country) with zero evidence. The center of the entire scandal is the longtime lawyer for the Isaias brothers, yet that never seems to make it into any of these articles. Accounts have been found, emails subpoenaed and arrests made, yet we keep hearing about the “accusations” against Glas. The story is so unconvincing, none of the opposition newspapers will print it and TeleAmazonas made a public statement distancing themselves between their reporter Janeth Hinojostra and the interview she had with Capaya in the SAME ROOM WHERE ROBERTO ISAIAS WAS INTERVIEWED JUST A COUPLE YEARS AGO. This whole thing is a silly show being played out on social media. The last gasps of an opposition that has run out of ideas.

    And while we’re talking about running mates, why isn’t there as much attention being paid to all the dirt on Andres Paez that has been out there for weeks. Newspapers won’t touch it because it’s hacked information, but social networks are paying far more attention to him than they are to Capaya’s allegations about Glas. I guess it’s because there’s no left-wing version of the Miami Herald.

    There will be no runoff. Moreno will win in the first round. Once the campaign is over, several current candidates involved in the Odebrecht scandal will be hightailing it to Miami before their arrest warrants are issued.