HomeNewsMillennial banana heir Daniel Noboa elected Ecuador’s next president

Millennial banana heir Daniel Noboa elected Ecuador’s next president

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QUITO, Ecuador — Daniel Noboa, the 35-year-old heir to a banana empire, was elected Ecuador’s next president Sunday after a deadly campaign in which he promised to bring a new generation of leadership — and new solutions — to a once-peaceful country increasingly consumed by drug violence.

He defeated rival Luisa González, a leftist former lawmaker loyal to former president Rafael Correa, in the runoff vote. González conceded shortly after 8 p.m. local time. Noboa will become Ecuador’s youngest president.

“Today we made history,” Noboa tweeted Sunday night. “Ecuadorian families chose the New Ecuador, they chose a country with security and employment.”

His victory amounted to a rejection of the socialist, pro-Correa party that remains a force in this South American nation of 17 million people.

“The country is in a new political moment,” political scientist Francisco Montahuano said. More than half of the electorate identifies as millennial or Generation Z. “Those younger generations,” he said, “are opting for a different political force and a young face.”

Noboa will have only 18 months to tackle the herculean task of restoring order in a country reeling from drug-fueled gang violence. Wedged between the world’s top two coca producers, Colombia and Peru, Ecuador has become a crucial transit point and battleground for traffickers moving cocaine to the United States and Europe. The violence is helping fuel a surge of migration to the United States.

In August, that violence spilled into the election campaign: Former lawmaker Fernando Villavicencio, who was running for president on promises to crack down on links between criminals and politicians, was fatally shot as he was leaving a campaign rally in Quito days before the first round of voting. This month, seven suspects in his killing were found dead in prison.

Noboa will be a caretaker president, serving out the remaining 18 months of President Guillermo Lasso’s term. Lasso avoided possible impeachment in May by dissolving the legislature, a constitutionally permissible move that allowed him to rule by decree but required a new election be held within six months. Lasso did not seek reelection.

“I think this presidency is going to be the worst job in Latin America for the next year and a half,” said Will Freeman, a fellow for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “You’re going to be blamed for all of the deepening of the current problems or at least the stasis.”

Ecuador to hold runoff election between leftist and millennial businessman

Noboa appeared to gain support from young people online in the final days of his campaign, when life-size “Cardboard Noboas” displayed by supporters on balconies, in nightclubs and on surf boards went viral on TikTok.

He vows to fix the country’s security crisis by overhauling the prison authority and creating a centralized intelligence unit.

“It’s time to give young people a chance, to see if they manage to fix the serious insecurity we are facing,” said Luisa Serrano, 72, who voted for Noboa in Quito. She believes in the millennial’s promises to give young people jobs and security.

Noboa is the son of the well-known banana magnate and perennial presidential candidate Álvaro Noboa. Daniel Noboa founded an event promotion company at 18 years old, studied at Harvard and New York University, and eventually became commercial director for his family’s corporation.

He was elected to Ecuador’s National Assembly in 2021 and served until Lasso dissolved the legislature.

“He is young, but he is prepared to govern,” said 18-year-old Valeria Córdova, a recent high school graduate in Quito who hopes to study nursing.

González promised to restore some Correa-era ministries, such as the Justice Ministry, and address the root causes of crime through social programs.

“Two years with a right-wing president and everything got worse,” said Andrés López, a 30-year-old environmental engineer in Quito who voted for González on Sunday.

Caroline Avila, an Ecuadorian analyst, called anger with Lasso “the great mobilizer.”

But the election was, like others in Ecuador’s recent history, a referendum on former president Correa, a popular but controversial figure — convicted of corruption — who is praised for combating inequality but reviled for his authoritarian tendencies.

A recent poll showed that almost 40 percent of Ecuadorians identified as neither pro- nor anti-Correa, perhaps suggesting a shift in the polarizing climate that has dominated politics for so long in this country.

In the end, Montahuano said, those voters helped decide the election.

Schmidt reported from Bogotá, Colombia. Diana Durán contributed to this report from Bogotá.

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