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When Guillermo Lasso, President of Ecuador, pledged to ensure that 9 million people – half the country’s population – were vaccinated in his first 100 days in office, it sounded like a populist campaign promise that would soon be broken.
On the day he came to power, May 24, Ecuador administered only 2 million doses and completely vaccinated 3 percent of the population, one of the lowest in the region.
But three months later, Lasso kept his word. The country has now administered almost 20m doses and fully vaccinated more than 9m people – 52 percent of the population, According to Johns Hopkins University.
The country has gone from one of the lowest vaccination rates in Latin America to the third highest, behind only Chile and Uruguay and ahead of all the populous countries in the region.
“It is an excellent achievement and a combination of factors,” said Sebastián Hurtado, head of local political risk consultant Profitas.
‘First: vaccine diplomacy. Lasso went out to everyone, from the Chinese, the Russians and the Western pharmaceutical enterprises, regardless of ideology. Secondly, he has appointed a very capable Minister of Health. Third: he involved the private sector to help with logistics, to provide vaccinations and equipment for doctors. ”
The vaccination program is not the only feather in Lasso’s cap. On Wednesday, his government said it had concluded a revised staff-level lending program at the IMF. If the plan is approved by the fund’s board, Ecuador will receive $ 1.5 billion in loans this year and another $ 3 billion in 2022 while trying to keep its finances stable.
At Lasso’s watch, Ecuador has also rejoined the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) after a 12-year absence, a move that should encourage foreign investment.
In August, the president traveled to Mexico to discuss a free trade agreement, a requirement for Ecuador to join the Pacific Alliance’s bloc, which currently includes its two immediate neighbors Colombia and Peru, along with Chile and Mexico.
Analysts say it Lasso showed a willingness to put ideology aside to sit down with the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a leader with whom he had little in common. “He rules without dogma. He has shown that he is willing to listen and build consensus, “said Gabriela Larreátegui, a former congresswoman in Ecuador.
This is quite a start for a man who was not expected to win the election in April. After failing in his two previous presidency attempts, he entered the second round this year the narrowest margin before he comes to an end a great disturbance in the run-up.
He was rewarded in the polls, which gave him an approval rating of between 64 and 74 percent. However, some suggest that its popularity peaked in July, possibly indicating more difficult days ahead.
His achievements so far have not required parliamentary approval, but in the coming months the government wants to push fiscal and labor reform bills through Congress. This is where Lasso could get loose.
There are five major parties in the 137-seat congress in Ecuador, the smallest of which is the party of Lasso’s Creating Opportunities (CREO) with only 12 seats. He can count on about a dozen independents, but he still needs a majority in a room dominated by left-wing parties and the indigenous party Pachakutik. The president tried to forge alliances with other parties, but with limited success.
“Lasso’s honeymoon is over,” said Johanna Andrango, a political scientist in Quito. “His first victory was the 9 million vaccines in 100 days, but people are now asking what he will do next to solve economic problems and crime, and his biggest obstacle is without a doubt Congress.
The president says his reforms are essential to restart an economy that shrank by nearly 8 percent last year. Debt rose to about 65 percent of gross domestic product and the fiscal deficit increased. As the only formal dollar economy in South America, Ecuador is limited in what it can do to correct its accounts.
If Congress refuses to approve Lasso’s reforms, he says he will try to circumvent the legislature by placing it on a referendum.
Ecuador has a record of the route. Lasso’s two immediate predecessors, Rafael Correa and Lenín Moreno, both mentioned plebiscites in their early years in power, and took advantage of the early popularity of pushing for reforms.
“If there is no approval for the laws in the National Assembly (Congress), we will consult the people directly and let them decide on their future,” Lasso told a local television station this week.