He is 36 but doesn’t always look or sound like a cool-style politician. On the way to Sunday’s ballot, which could make him president of Ecuador, Andrés Arauz promises a “progressive” left government, away from “revenge” against the “traitors” of his mentor, former president Rafael Correa.
Arauz, an economist who jumped from the bureaucracy to win votes at the hands of Correa, is emerging as the winner of the second round against the right-wing Guillermo Lasso, 65, according to polls.
If he repeats the victory of the first round, he will be the youngest president in Latin America and the youngest in the last four decades in Ecuador.
However, Arauz does not behave like a millennial: he does not take selfies, he uses social networks moderately and he looks formal. His spontaneity surfaces before getting on a stage, although, being on it, he is a traditional speaker.
Even dancing or rapping is not allowed in front of the public despite the fact that in one of his electoral raids a hip-hop group invites him to rhyme with them. He does not want to appear as an errand boy for Correa but he allows himself to replicate his godfather’s refrain, the famous phrase of Che Guevara “until victory always”, at the end of his speeches.
In an atypical campaign due to the restrictions of the pandemic, Arauz stops to answer questions to AFP.
He speaks of his intentions to renegotiate with the IMF the austerity plan that follows a loan of 6.5 billion dollars and of “adjustments” in cooperation with the United States. He also defends dollarization and explains the influence of Correa, who according to his critics will seek revenge against his successor and former ally, Lenín Moreno, through his pupil.
Question: What left do you identify with?
Answer: We are from the progressive left that is open to another fruitful and profitable relationship for the country with the social democracy, with the plurinational unity. We represent that historical bloc that was the protagonist of the Montecristi Constitution (promoted by Correa in 2008).
At the regional and global level we identify with international progressivism, with Bernie Sanders in the United States, we identify with Pepe Mujica in Uruguay.
– Correa, the IMF and the US –
Q: What role will former President Correa have in your government?
A: It is a Latin American benchmark, not just Ecuadorian. He is the founder of this political project. We will have a very dynamic relationship, very profitable for the country based on its experience in the transformations that Ecuador has already undergone, but who will govern Ecuador will be me.
Q: Ecuador turned to the IMF for financing. Will you keep that agreement?
A: We want to renegotiate the agreement. We are not going to declare a moratorium against the IMF.
If we will seek that the reduction of public spending is not applied at such a tremendous speed as that agreement is proposed, we want the Constitution of Ecuador to be respected in relation to the Central Bank (which according to Arauz intends to be privatized) and we will propose that dollars should be preserved in Ecuador so that there is more economic activity.
Q: What about cooperation with the United States in the fight against drugs?
A: There will always have to be adjustments based on our policy priorities. We cannot forget that the United States is the [principal] drug consuming country of the region and the planet. Based on this principle, we will propose an adjustment in the conditions of cooperation. There must be cooperation with the United States, with Mexico, the Central American countries, with our neighboring countries.
– Justice without “revenge” –
Q: In 2020 Ecuador seized a record 128 tons of drugs. How much has drug trafficking permeated the country?
A: Fortunately, from the hub of production [el narcotráfico] it has not significantly permeated our country. Unfortunately, Ecuador is a country of transit and begins to have ramifications around social violence. We are going to act so that violence is eradicated; we are going to have a framework of cooperation with consumer countries, finding hemispheric and global public policy alternatives that solve the drug problem.
Q: Will you promote investigations against President Moreno for handling the pandemic?
A: The country needs to determine the truth, to have justice, to be responsible for the negligence in handling the pandemic. That will happen and we will let justice do its thing. It is not a political revenge, Ecuadorian society demands justice. It is not a personal matter. I have no personal intention of chasing anyone. My interest is health, the economy of my town, that’s what I’m going to do.
Q: Will you decriminalize abortion?
A: My personal position regarding abortion is that there should be no penalization or criminalization especially in raped girls, but our legislation has yet to adapt and there will be space and time for that to be debated.