Leftist presidential candidate Andrés Arauz has big plans to change Ecuador's course if elected on Sunday, when he faces right-wing contender Guillermo Lasso in a runoff.
Arauz, 36, wants to renegotiate a US$6.5-billion debt with the International Monetary Fund, alter anti-narcotics agreements with the United States, and even hold President Lenín Moreno legally responsible for his handling of the hard-hit country's coronavirus response.
Despite wanting to renegotiate the IMF agreement, "we're not going to declare a moratorium against the IMF," Arauz told AFP.
He said that under a renegotiated deal, he would seek a slower reduction in public spending and insist that US dollars "must be kept in Ecuador so there's greater economic activity."
Separately he would aim to negotiate with Washington to redraw accords on fighting drug-trafficking.
The United States can currently conduct operations against drug-trafficking and illegal fishing in Ecuadoran territory and is even permitted to use an airport on the Galapagos Islands.
The world's top two cocaine producers are neighbouring Colombia and Peru, with much of the output passing through Ecuador on its way to either Europe or the United States.
"We cannot forget that the US is the [main] consumer country of drugs in the region and on the planet," Arauz said. "Given that, we aim to adjust the cooperation conditions. There must be cooperation with the United States, Mexico, the Central American countries and our neighbors."
Ecuador seized a record 128 tons of drugs in 2020, even though the country produces very little itself.
"Unfortunately, Ecuador is a transit country and that's starting to have ramifications in terms of social violence," said Arauz. "We're going to act to eradicate the violence, we're going to cooperate with consumer countries."
No 'political revenge'
Ecuador has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and Arauz made no attempt to hide the fact that he blames Moreno, who is the ally-turned-enemy of Arauz's political mentor, former president Rafael Correa.
Correa, who left office in 2017, has been convicted of corruption and sentenced to eight years in prison, although he lives in exile in Belgium.
"The country needs to determine the truth, so that there's justice, so that someone is held responsible for the negligence in the management of the pandemic," Arauz said.
"That will happen and we will leave the courts to do their work," he added. "It's not political revenge, Ecuadoran society demands justice. It's not a personal issue. I have no personal intention to persecute anyone."
One issue he won't push in a hurry, however, is the decriminalisation of abortion.
"My personal position with regards to abortion is that there should not be a penalisation or criminalisation, especially for girls who are raped, but our legislation still needs to adapt and there will be the space and the moment to debate this."
'Me governing Ecuador'
Arauz is aiming to be the youngest current head of state in Latin America and the youngest in Ecuador in 40 years.
But he's determined not to be branded a puppet of his political mentor Correa, who would have been his running-mate but for his corruption conviction.
"Former president Correa is a Latin American inspiration, not just an Ecuadorean one. He's the founder of this political project," said Arauz.
"We have a very dynamic, very profitable relationship for the country based on his experience and the transformations that Ecuador has already undergone. But it will be me governing Ecuador from May 24."
by Paola López, AFP