New leftist Ecuador president set for swearing-in

The newly elected Ecuadorean President, Lenin Moreno (L) receives from the president of the National Electoral Council, Juan Pozo (R), the document that recognizes him as president, at the National Assemby in Quito, on May 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN CEVALLOS

Ecuador’s new president Lenin Moreno takes office Wednesday, tasked with steering a flagship of the Latin American left through troubled economic and political waters.

Congress was due to swear in Moreno, 64, at 1500 GMT, as the quieter successor to one of the feistiest personalities in Latin American politics: Rafael Correa.

Moreno is the first wheelchair-user to become Ecuador’s leader, and one of few such leaders in the world ever to serve as president.

His legs have been paralyzed since he was shot during a robbery in 1998.

He went on to lead a task force on disability rights as vice-president in Correa’s government. That earned him a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

President for a decade, Correa, 54, is one of a generation of colorful leftist leaders who governed the mineral-rich region over recent decades.

He won the hearts of many with welfare spending, social equality policies and subsidies which he says reduced poverty.

And unlike his allies in Brazil, Argentina and Peru, his side managed to win re-election this year.

Known to his supporters simply as ‘Lenin,’ Moreno “is willing to be less confrontational and to have a softer approach as president to the opposition and the media,” said Farith Simon, an analyst at San Francisco University in Quito.

“He will not change political course but will change the style of government.”

Economists warn Moreno faces tougher conditions than those enjoyed by Correa, however.

“It will be very difficult to maintain” the level of social spending, said Simon Pachano, a political scientist at the Latin American Social Sciences Faculty in Quito.

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