Analysis • By Diego Hernández | A man of clear beliefs. Firm and cordial. Outspoken advocate for the right to life, the family and the fundamental liberties; consistent in his public stands on these subjects. Enthusiastic about free initiative as an engine of development. Convinced that his country can be a place full of opportunities for everyone. This is Guillermo Lasso, the new president-elect of Ecuador.
A businessman and veteran private banking executive, aged 65, Lasso is the man who thwarted the correista socialism by closing the doors of Carondelet Palace, the seat of Ecuadorian government, to the economist Andrés Arauz.
Lasso’s victory also represents a resounding defeat for the newest progressist unifying centre in Iberoamerica, the Puebla Group (PG), which was betting on a victory for Araúz and intended to present him as a second model of “progressist” government model in the region following Alberto Fernández in Argentina. Correa, a fugitive in Belgium, is one of the most active founders of PG, and Araúz one of its high-ranking members.
In February, during the first-round rallies, Araúz was the leader, having 32% of the votes; Lasso had 20%. On 11th April, Lasso obtained 52% of the votes in the balloting, meanwhile Araúz got 47%. A very interesting fact is that – according to the data provided by the election maps -, the indigenous regions voted mostly for Lasso instead of Araúz.
This is the third time that Lasso runs for president. He was beaten by Correa in 2013, in 2017 lost to Lenin Moreno and, as they say, third time was the charm. His victory has been received with appreciation by thousands of prolife leaders in the country, as well as by conservative and libertarian sectors.
During the campaign, he assured that he would promote “a real change” to correct the course imposed for 10 years by the Bolivarian socialism; a course that was partially held back by the current president, Moreno, who broke with Correia at the beginning of his term.
The president-elect has promised to donate his income to a social organization and renounce to his lifelong pension as former president once he leaves office. The axes of his government, which will begin on 24th May, are expected to be: freedom of economic initiative, job creation and development opportunities for all with special attention to minorities, deregulation of government, strengthening of the Institutions, public policies on family support and protection of life.
“A new phase begins for Ecuador, in which we can all live better; democracy, freedom and the Ecuadorian families have won”, said he on his Twitter account as he celebrated the victory.
Child of a large and hardworking middle-class family
His life journey seems to come in support of his promises. He is the youngest of 11 children of a middle-class family. He has worked since he was 15 to pay for his studies. He got into the faculty of economics at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, but had to give up his career in order to support financially his family.
He got married to María de Lourdes Alcívar Crespo, and the couple had five children between 1985 and 1997: three boys, Guillermo Enrique, Santiago and Juan Emilio, and two girls, María de Lourdes and María Mercedes.
In 1984, he worked for the national branch of Coca-Cola, where he was nominated vice-president in order to implement a rehabilitation process in the company.
Soon after that, he stepped into the financial sector, and before turning 30 he was made executive president of the Finansur Bank, which merged with the Guayaquil Bank in 1989. Only five years later, Lasso would be appointed as its executive president, and in this position he leaded a process of modernization that turned the bank into the second biggest financial institution in the country.
In the 1990s, he promoted the “Banco del Barrio”, an initiative originated in the Italian Christian social thought from the 1920s, among large popular sector in Ecuador. The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) acknowledged it as the largest banking project in Latin America in 2010.
In May 2012, after a 42-year career in the private sector, he left the Guayaquil Bank to run for president. His successful path in banking is an unforgivable “sin” for the left wing, and has earned him the nickname of “the ecuatorian right-wing candidate”.
Neither left nor right
Lasso states categorically that he is “neither left nor right”. He is an open opponent to the so-called “21st Century socialism”, but also a sharp critic of the “wild capitalism”. During an interview for the newspaper El Universo, he claimed that life has made him into a “liberal”, but in the classical meaning: economical, not illuminist.
He explains: “I am a man who started his professional life at 15 in the Orellana neighbourhood, without a single penny. I am aware of the existence of vulnerable groups that have no access to the same opportunities, and therefore social responsibility and economical thinking are two sides of the same coin”. Behind his words and deeds, it is possible to see glimpses of the Christian social thought.
A Catholic without complex
Lasso is Catholic. He doesn’t try to hide it. He doesn’t lessen this fact. The press and the progressist sectors “accuse” him of having “links to the Opus Dei”. He is a “fundamentalist Catholic”, so they say. Lasso shows his face. “There’s nothing to hide”, says.
“I am a Catholic, have always been and this is a point of pride for me, even being unworthy of this name”, explains. About he Opus Dei, he details: “I don’t have ‘links’, I am a member of the Opus and there is nothing wrong with that, on the contrary”.
According to Francisco Jarrín, president of the Christian Association of Businessmen (CAB), the means by which the candidate has been facing the criticism coming from the radical leftism and the Jacobin liberalism about his faith have brought the Christian values into the focus of the political discussion.
“This is not about identifying a candidate as the Christian or Catholic candidate, but about thinking about whether this candidate really assumes a programme that is consistent to the values acknowledged by the majority of the population, which is Christian”, he points out.
Open advocate of life and family
Lasso has always been unambiguously clear about the right to life. In his view, the death on an unborn baby is a murder, and unacceptable deed: “I believe in life since the conception and this is an unchanging principle for me; it is a fundamental human right and must be extensively protected by the law”.
He has assumed this public stand since the 2012 campaign and he hasn’t changed it a jot. He has also stated that he won’t promote nor accept any changes that may allow same-sex unions to be equated to matrimony.
“The fact that I am a Catholic leads me to recognize and value the dignity of every human being, without distinctions; however, there is only one ‘kind’ of matrimony: the one between a man and a woman”, states. “Any other kind of union between two people of the same sex is not a matrimony, although it is possible to discuss how to safeguard the patrimonial rights of those who decide to live together”.
Obviously, these stands have obtained him the animosity of the progressist press, but also the support of the majority of the Ecuadorians, who are against abortion and “gay marriage”; however, he has also listened to homosexuals and people with gender dysphoria or who consider themselves transexuals.
He held a meeting with some representatives of this minority: he was very clear in warning that he wouldn’t support the so-called “equal marriage”, but that he pledged to create public policies to stop the unjust discrimination and create development and job opportunities.
However, the way his campaign staff expressed this commitment, through a promotional video on his official Twitter account, has raised concerns among some of his supporters, for it incorporated words used by the ideological narrative of gender, and to top it off, it was published on the “Trans Visibility Day”.
Time will tell if Lasso will really be the man to give an effective response to the economic problem of his country, combining economic freedom and a strong social engagement; a man who respects, promotes and defend life and family in his government; or if he will be another Macri who defrauds the expectations of the millions of “conservative” citizens that brought him to power.
Diego Hernández is a journalist and Director of Communication and Development for Iberoamerica of the Polítical Network for Values.