Ecuadorians selecting a brand new president amid rising violence that will scare away voters

Ecuador is holding a particular election Sunday to choose a brand new president, with police and troopers on guard towards unprecedented violence, together with the assassination of a candidate this month.

Front-runners embrace an ally of exiled former President Rafael Correa and a millionaire with a safety background promising to be powerful on crime.

Authorities have deployed greater than 100,000 police and troopers to guard the vote towards extra violence. Some Ecuadorians nonetheless mentioned they’d not even go away residence for the election, though skipping the journey to the polls may lead to a tremendous.

“I don’t think the election will change anything,” mentioned pharmacist Leidy Aguirre, 28, who has steadily stopped going out with associates over the previous three years, out of worry of being robbed. “Not even politicians are safe.”

Candidate Fernando Villavicencio was assassinated Aug. 9 as he left a marketing campaign rally in Quito, the capital of the as soon as calm South American nation. The killing heightened individuals’s fears of spending time exterior residence and changing into victims of robberies, kidnappings, extortions, homicides or any of the opposite crimes which have turn into commonplace.

Villavicencio’s slaying was the third and most distinguished in a string of killings of political leaders this yr.

Interior Minister Juan Zapata mentioned this previous week that the one restriction individuals will face when voting would be the inspection of backpacks. Street distributors is not going to be allowed close to voting facilities.

The election was known as after President Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former banker, dissolved the National Assembly by decree in May to keep away from being impeached over allegations that he didn’t intervene to finish a defective contract between the state-owned oil transport firm and a non-public tanker firm. He determined to not run within the particular election.

The ballots have been printed earlier than one other candidate may substitute for Villavicencio. So they embrace the identify of the late candidate, who was not among the many high contenders.

The frontrunner in polling was Luisa González, a lawyer and former lawmaker whose marketing campaign has highlighted her affiliation with the occasion of Correa, the previous president who in 2020 was discovered responsible of corruption and sentenced in absentia to eight years in jail. He has been dwelling in his spouse’s native Belgium since 2017.

Trailing González, the one feminine presidential candidate, have been millionaire Jan Topic, whose promise of heavy-handed techniques towards criminals earned him the nickname “Ecuadorian Rambo;” and Otto Sonnenholzner, who led part of the country’s response to the pandemic while serving as the third vice president during the administration of President Lenín Moreno.

Also running was Yaku Pérez, an Indigenous man promising to defend the environment and water from mining and oil extraction.

To win outright, a candidate needs 50% of the votes, or at least 40% with a 10-point lead over the closest opponent. If needed, a runoff election would take place Oct. 15. The winner will govern only for the remainder of Lasso’s unfinished term, meaning less than two years.

Voters were also electing a new National Assembly and deciding two ballot measures — one addressing whether to stop oil extraction in a portion of the Amazon jungle and the other asking whether to authorize the exploitation of minerals such as gold, silver and copper in forests of the Andean Choco around Quito.

Voting is mandatory in Ecuador for people ages 18 through 64. Those who don’t comply face a fine of about $45.

Six Colombian men have been arrested in connection with Villavicencio’s killing.

Candidates have increased their security and Pérez appeared at a campaign rally Thursday wearing a bulletproof vest. That same day, Topic’s supporters were bused to a campaign rally at the convention center in Guayaquil. They left purses and backpacks in the buses and entered through makeshift gates manned by private security guards.

In addition to a universal demand for safety, the new president will need to address an economy that is still struggling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s Central Bank reduced its growth expectation for 2023 from 3.1% to 2.6%, an annual economic performance that analysts forecast will be even lower.

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

Sandra Jarrín lost her receptionist job four years ago along with about two dozen other colleagues due to staff cuts at the Quito company where they worked. She has not managed to find a new position since then.

“Now everything is virtual, that reduces workspaces,” mentioned Jarrín, 52. In addition to unemployment, she worries about insecurity. “We are not safe outside, or in our homes.”

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