Banana empire heir holds lead with more than half the votes counted in Ecuador presidential race

Soldiers and security of presidential candidate Daniel Noboa, of the National Democratic Action Alliance political party, center, leaves after voting in a runoff election on Sunday in Olon, Ecuador. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Presidential candidate Luisa Gonzalez, of the Citizen's Revolutionary Movement, arrives to vote in a runoff election Sunday in Canuto, Ecuador. (AP Photo/Ariel Ochoa)

QUITO, Ecuador — Daniel Noboa, an inexperienced politician and an heir to a fortune built on the banana trade, won Ecuador’s presidential runoff election Sunday held amid unprecedented violence that even claimed the life of a candidate.

With about 96% of the votes counted, electoral officials said Noboa had 52.2% of the votes, compared to 47.8% for Luisa González, a leftist lawyer and ally of exiled former President Rafael Correa. González conceded defeat during a speech before supporters Sunday night and said she planned to call Noboa to congratulate him.


Noboa, 35, will lead Ecuador during a period marked by unprecedented violence that even claimed the life of a presidential candidate.

Throughout the campaign, Ecuadorians, who now have to continuously watch their backs and limit how often they leave home, had a universal demand — safety.

The nationwide uneasiness began when violence erupted about three years ago, but it reached an unthinkable level when Fernando Villavicencio was killed Aug. 9 as he left a campaign rally.

Noboa’s political career began in 2021, when he earned a seat in the National Assembly and chaired its Economic Development Commission. The U.S.-educated businessman opened an event organizing company when he was 18 and then joined his father’s Noboa Corp., where he held management positions in the shipping, logistics and commercial areas.

His father, Álvaro Noboa, is the richest man in Ecuador thanks to a conglomerate that started in the growing and shipping of bananas — Ecuador’s main crop — and now includes more than 128 companies in dozens of countries. The elder Noboa unsuccessfully ran for president five times.

The new president’s term will run only through May 2025, which is what remains of the tenure of President Guillermo Lasso. He cut his term short when he dissolved the country’s National Assembly in May as lawmakers carried out impeachment proceedings against him over alleged improprieties in a contract by a state-owned company.

Lasso, a conservative former banker, clashed constantly with lawmakers after his election in 2021 and decided not to run in the special election. On Sunday, he called on Ecuadorians to have a peaceful election and think about what is “best for their children, their parents and the country.” He said voters have the wisdom “to banish demagoguery and authoritarianism as they look toward a tomorrow of peace and well-being for all.”

Under Lasso’s watch, violent deaths soared, reaching 4,600 in 2022, the country’s highest in history and double the total in 2021. The National Police tallied 3,568 violent deaths in the first half of 2023.

The spike in violence is tied to cocaine trafficking. Mexican, Colombian and Balkan cartels have set roots in Ecuador and operate with assistance from local criminal gangs.

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