Ecuador Elects Leftist President

Colonel Lucio Gutierrez has become the new president of Ecuador

Former Army Colonel Lucio Gutierrez won runoff elections last Sunday and became the new president of Ecuador after defeating the banana magnate Alvaro Noboa with 54% of the votes. Gutierrez, usually dressed on his army uniform, headed the 2000 uprisings, which toppled former President Jamil Mahuad and promoted his Vice-President, Gustavo Noboa, to the head of the South American country.

Lucio Gutierrez reached the presidency by promising social reforms and to fight against corruption in a country with 60% of its population living in poverty. Ecuador adopted the US Dollar as the legal tender in 2000, which deepened the long running recession of its economy. Today, Ecuador still depends on its commodity exports - oil and bananas, mainly- as looses in productivity due to its extraordinary expensive economy.

Usually compared with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, Gutierrez made a concerted effort to calm down Wall Street markets, where, dressed in a business suit, he promised to keep the dollarization program. Ecuador's monetary system desperately needs permanent foreign investments to meet its debt obligations to multilateral lenders and the high costs of its industry make it completely non-competitive amid neighbor countries.

"My Government will be one of national conciliation. I will end the left-right divisions of our country,” the leader of the Patriotic Society party expressed to the press. He also stated that he will negotiate a new deal with the International Monetary Fund, aiming to avoid debt payment troubles.

Gutierrez will join in its cabinet a risky combination of bankers to handle country's economy and social and Indian leaders in the politic front. There is no question that the coexistence will be very difficult and will require for Gutierrez's best skills to moderate possible conflicts between the factions.

The former army colonel gained a reputation in early 2000 when he joined protesting Indians to commandeer the assembly hall in Congress. Later, the same day, on January 21, 2000, he formed a ruling junta with a Supreme Court judge and an Indian leader. They ruled for a few hours before the country's vice-president took power, and Mr. Gutierrez spent six months in jail as a result of the coup.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

Photo (El Comercio, Ecuador): Gutierrez celebrates his victory with his family in Quito.

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