Villavicencio’s absence and uncertainty mark a tough presidential debate in Ecuador

The late Fernando Villavicencio’s empty lectern marked a debate began with a minute’s silence in his memory. Nobody took their place. The inevitable absence of the Construye movement’s candidate for president, who was shot dead at the exit of a rally in Quito on Wednesday, affected Sunday night’s in-person television session of the seven remaining candidates seeking to succeed incumbent President of Ecuador Guillermo Lasso the elections next Sunday, August 20th.

Ecuador TV’s headquarters were protected by a heavy police presence. All precautions were few in a country where three political figures died in a matter of days. Augustine IntriagoMayor of Manta. Rider Sanchez, candidate for entry into the National Assembly. And Fernando Villavicencio. For this reason, according to the environmentalist Yaku Perezthe correista Luisa Gonzalezbusinessman Xavier Hervasthe former vice president Otto Sonnenholzerthe security expert Jan topicthe columnist Bolivar Armijos and the former legislature Daniel Noboa they were protected. The latter came to the appointment with a bulletproof vest.

journalist Christian Zurita did not participate in the debate. A close friend of Villavicencio, he submitted his registration to replace him after the former MP’s coalition named him to succeed him ahead of his campaign partner. Andrea González Nader. Confirmation by the National Electoral Council (CNE) is pending, but the latter has not yet made a decision.

The moderators Gisella Bayona And Andrés Jungbluth moderated a discussion on security; economy, employment and production; education, health, culture and social welfare; Democracy and Sustainability and Environment. The interruptions, the switches between the candidates and the interventions of the journalists to steer the topics in a different direction were the general trend. Apart from the unanimous distancing of the candidates from the incumbent president, there was hardly any consensus. Nobody wanted to show closeness to Guillermo Lasso, who activated the “cross death” mechanism to avoid impeachment. The Seven blamed the Conservative for a scenario of social and political crisis on top of unprecedented uncertainty.

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The first thing Lasso should say is “Let go of this government,” said the candidate for the Citizens’ Revolution, Luisa González, even, a favorite in the polls but haunted by the shadow of former President Rafael Correa. For his part, Yaku Pérez proposed a reform of the political party system and the democratic code that governs the electoral function. However, It was the issue of safety that became the focus of the debate.

Elections in Ecuador
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“More blood has been shed this year than in all the wars in the country”, said in one of his speeches the candidate of the alliance “A country without fear”, Jan Topic. The security sector businessman, who throughout the election campaign expressed his admiration for the method used by El Salvador President Nayib Bukele to deal with violence, recalled that 4,570 people have died in connection with violence since 2021 a prison crisis that has taken to the streets and is closely linked to the drug trade.

González responded in this sense that during the Correa government (2007-2017) the Andean country was one of the safest on the continent. Armijos proposed the creation of a new maximum security prison. Sonnenholzner, Lenín Moreno’s vice president, also offered a “firm hand”. Granting amnesty to police officers who encounter legal problems in the performance of their duties. Yaku Pérez spoke of prevention, deterrence and repression, but also of a comprehensive strategy against poverty, unemployment and marginality.

“The outcome of the debate will be a second round and it will be Luisa (González) and (Jan) Topic if the votes were to take place today,” predicted political scientist Caroline Ávila on the social network X, the old Twitter. “We’ll see the post-debate and how the candidatures react.” Your challenge will be to refute Topic’s numbers. This volatile country never fails to surprise.”.

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