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Ecuador weighs two very different economic visions in election

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Voters head to the polls Sunday for the run-off election between presidential candidates Andres Arauz, a left-wing economist, and Guillermo Lasso, a ring-wing banker. The winner will inherit a divided nation and bleak economic outlook.

Video Transcript

LUCIA NEWMAN: [? Cangahua ?] is a rural Indigenous community, known for its rich agriculture and flower exports. But here, as in the rest of Ecuador, the economy and basic services have collapsed long before the pandemic. Rosa Farinango is one of the many unemployed who's had to find a new way to survive. She's raising and selling these guinea pigs at $8 each. Here, they're a popular dish.

ROSA FARINANGO: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: A job. That's all I ask of him.

LUCIA NEWMAN: She's referring to Andres Arauz, the leading presidential candidate. Arauz is a young economist and protege of former left-wing president Rafael Correa, who was in power for a decade until four years ago. Arauz's name is frequently placed next to Correa's image, so there'll be no doubt about the connection.

ROSA FARINANGO: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: It's not just me who will vote for Arauz. Everyone says that Correa did a lot for us. They say he stole, but he did a lot.

LUCIA NEWMAN: Under Correa's Citizens Revolution, poverty levels fell, social spending soared, and so did public works projects. But there were also nagging accusations of corruption and persecution of opponents and the media.

RAFAEL CORREA: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

LUCIA NEWMAN: Correa is now living in Belgium and faces eight years in prison for corruption if he returns home. But Correa is still a powerful force, represented by 36-year-old Arauz, one of his former ministers. From Ecuador's Pacific coast to the mountains, Arauz has been campaigning hard, vowing to reinstate and accelerate their Citizens Revolution movement. He says it was betrayed by current president Lenín Moreno.

ANDRES ARAUZ: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: They prefer to pay the foreign debt, rather than protecting Ecuadorians who've had to leave their corpses on the street during the pandemic because there was no money for hospitals.

LUCIA NEWMAN: His rival, Guillermo Lasso, faces an uphill battle. He is perceived as close to the discredited current president, and worse yet, to the IMF. The banker businessman is a three-time presidential hopeful and a political conservative. He warns that a return of Correa's party would threaten democracy.

GUILLERMO LASSO: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: For more than a decade, they persecuted those who didn't bow to the tastes of their chief. We represent those who consider diversity as one of Ecuador's principal assets.

LUCIA NEWMAN: I asked former president Correa about speculation that he'll return to Ecuador as the power behind the throne if Arauz is elected.

RAFAEL CORREA: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

INTERPRETER: I don't even plan to return to my country, rather to continue in academia in Belgium with my family. Furthermore, the brainchild of our program to rescue Ecuador is Andres Arauz, who is a brilliant economist.

LUCIA NEWMAN: Back in [? Cangahua, ?] a PhD degree in economy or experience in banking mean very little. The only thing people say they want is a president who will remember that they need help. Lucia Newman, Al-Jazeera.