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Ending corruption, creating jobs are major themes of ‘Presidential Dialog’ in Quito

Even Lenin Moreno, aspiring heir apparent to President Rafael Correa’s Citizen’s Revolution, advocated major political change during Sunday night’s “Diálogo Presidencial 2017” in Quito.

The candidates at Sunday night’s forum.

Moreno and the seven opposition candidates running to be Ecuador’s next president all called for a thorough investigations and stiff penalties for corrupt government officials, “I will perform major surgery on all corruption and make sure those who have profited illegally will go to jail and never serve in this government again,” Moreno said.

Called a “dialog” because the format did not allow direct debate between candidates, Sunday’s event never-the-less featured strong condemnation of the Correa government, especially from conservative Guillermo Lasso, who is running second to Moreno in most polls.

Lasso said Correa’s 10-year administration was rife with corruption and cover-ups, and said he held Correa’s legal system accountable. “The prosecutors and judges have been blind, deaf and mute during the reign of Alianza País (Correa’s and Moreno’s political party), and this will change when I am elected.”

Moreno’s other conservative challenger, Cynthia Viteri accused the Correa government of removing the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government. “Because of this, the government has allowed the corrupt to enjoy the money they stole,” referring to a number of former officials who have fled the country, allegedly will ill-gotten gains.

The focus on corruption follows Friday’s claim by former energy minister Carlos Pareja that Jorge Glas, current vice president and vice presidential candidate on Moreno’s ticket, was aware of the bribes being paid during a Petroecuador construction project. All the candidates except Moreno called for an immediate investigation of Glas, who says he knew nothing about the corruption. One of Glas’ duties as vice president is to provide oversight of Petroecuador.

All candidates said changes in the regulatory and tax structure are necessary to stimulate job growth.

“We must remove the administrative burden on private enterprise since it is the economic engine that will create jobs and pull the country out of recession,” said Viteri. “This government has made it almost impossible for businesses to succeed.”

In addition to promoting growth in tourism, and increased exports and construction, Moreno defended the government as a “valuable and necessary engine of job growth,” although he agreed that over-regulation of private business needs to be examined. “We need to do a better job of encouraging entrepreneurs in the private economy since they are the ones who will create tomorrow’s jobs.”

Moreno defended the record of the Correa administration, in which he served for six years as vice president. “Who among us will not agree that Ecuador is much better off today than it was 10 years ago.” He added: “I will not respond to the insults and lies aimed at Aliance País and ask the citizens of this country to look at our record of accomplishment.”

All seven opposition candidates called for the elimination of controls on private media and a roll back of some of the taxes and import duties applied during the Correa administration. They also agreed that the national debt, about 45% of GDP, needs to be reduced and that reliance on Chinese loans should end.