Home Politics Heir to the leadership of a troubled country, Daniel Noboa is sworn in as president of Ecuador

Heir to the leadership of a troubled country, Daniel Noboa is sworn in as president of Ecuador

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Ecuador’s President Daniel Noboa walks after his inauguration ceremony at the National Assembly, in Quito, Ecuador November 23, 2023. Photo by Karen Toro/REUTERS

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Daniel Noboa, an inexperienced politician and heir to a fortune built on the banana trade, was sworn in Thursday as Ecuador’s president, a role citizens are demanding he uses to restore public safety that drug cartels and other criminal organizations stripped them of earlier this decade.

Noboa’s term will only extend until May 2025, the remaining term of former President Guillermo Lasso. Lasso cut his term short when he dissolved the National Assembly in May as lawmakers pursued impeachment proceedings against him.

The country’s newly elected speaker of Parliament, Henry Kronfle, placed the presidential sash on Noboa during a ceremony in Quito, the capital.

Under Lasso’s leadership, violent deaths in Ecuador have skyrocketed, reaching a record 4,600 in 2022, double the number from the previous year. Murders, kidnappings, thefts and other criminal activities have become an integral part of daily life for Ecuadorians.

The assassination of presidential candidate and anti-corruption activist Fernando Villavicencio as he left a campaign rally in August highlighted the fragility of the country’s security situation.

Noboa’s only experience in government was as a member of the National Assembly that Lasso dissolved. He inherits a weakened economy and serious fiscal challenges as well as the leadership of a country mired in violent crime,
“The economy and security are indivisible issues; it is an important front that President Noboa must work on,” said Andrés Briones, an analyst and professor at Casa Grande University in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The Noboa government will have to “undertake tax reforms to promote growth and revitalization of the economy”.

But any action he wants to take to resolve Ecuador’s crucial problems will first require him to negotiate with the National Assembly, where his party does not have enough seats to govern alone.

READ MORE: Daniel Noboa wins Ecuador elections, becomes country’s youngest elected president

The outbreak of violence is linked to trafficking in cocaine produced in neighboring countries Colombia and Peru. Mexican, Colombian and Balkan cartels have established themselves in Ecuador and operate with the help of local criminal gangs.

Noboa has made a series of proposals to improve security, from using barges to house detainees to police acquiring more equipment. While these ideas helped him get elected on October 15, he now faces the challenge of leading a population frightened to the point of choosing to stay home as much as possible.

“We were kidnapped by organized crime,” said Alejandro Zabala, a professor at the University of Las Américas.

But Zabala believes that the authoritarian policies imposed by Lasso have been “an absolute failure” and suggested that the government must clean up the ranks of law enforcement, invest in police equipment and join regional and international efforts against organized crime, because Ecuador “can’t win.” war alone. »

Like Lasso, a conservative former banker, Noboa’s wealth places him at the top of Ecuador’s elite. His father, Álvaro Noboa, is among the richest people in Ecuador thanks to a conglomerate that began growing and transporting bananas and now includes more than 128 companies in dozens of countries.

The elder Noboa ran unsuccessfully for president five times.

The young Noboa opened an events planning company at the age of 18, then joined the Noboa Corp. from his father, where he held management positions in the fields of shipping, logistics and commerce. His political career began in 2021, when he won a seat in the National Assembly and chaired its economic development commission.

READ MORE: Seven men accused of murder of Ecuador presidential candidate killed in prison

Ecuador’s fiscal mess is partly the result of declining revenues from tax collections and oil exports, on which the country largely depends.

Data from the Ministry of Finance shows that state coffers received $991 million from oil between January and July. That’s less than half of the $2.3 billion the state received during the same period last year. Meanwhile, tax revenues fell this year by $137 million.

The country’s budget deficit is expected to reach around $5 billion by the end of the year, or more than 5% of its gross domestic product.

Former Minister of Economy and Finance, Fausto Ortíz, said that Lasso had good fiscal management of the economy, adhering to the instructions of the International Monetary Fund, with reductions in public spending and investments of the State and a sustained reduction in the budget deficit.

But Ortíz argued that “the budgetary aspect is not everything in running a country” and that the strategy led to unintended consequences: no economic growth or job growth.

“The result is not favorable,” he said.

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