Ecuador’s youngest-ever president Daniel Noboa takes office

Ecuador’s new president, the 35-year-old millionaire heir to a banana empire, Daniel Noboa, took office Thursday as the leader of a country gripped by a bloody drug war.

“You are sworn in as president,” declared the head of the national assembly, Henry Kronfle, during the inauguration ceremony, which was attended by Colombian President Gustavo Petro.

Noboa, who was elected in October vowing to restore peace to his country, takes over from Guillermo Lasso, who called snap elections to avoid possible impeachment.

He will serve only 18 months, the remainder of Lasso’s term.

Long a peaceful haven between major cocaine exporters Colombia and Peru, Ecuador has seen violence explode in recent years as enemy gangs with links to Mexican and Colombian cartels vie for control.

Drug violence has led to some 3,600 murders so far this year, reports the Ecuadorian Observatory of Organized Crime.

The violence also marred the election, with popular presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, shot dead after a rally before the first round.

With little political experience and support in Parliament, Noboa will have a “structurally weak government,” said political scientist Santiago Cahuasqui, of the SEK International University.

This government will have to be “highly pragmatic and realistic regarding its capabilities and objectives so that it does not generate more frustration for Ecuadorians,” he added.

Noboa has said he will implement a state of emergency, suspend some citizen rights such as freedom of movement, and deploy the military to the streets.

During his campaign he said he wanted to create offshore prisons on barges to isolate the most violent inmates.

A fine wine fundi and musician, Noboa was born in the port city of Guayaquil into his billionaire father Alvaro’s banana empire.

His father, who did not attend the ceremony, tried unsuccessfully to become president five times.

Noboa holds a degree in business administration from New York University and three master’s degrees from Harvard, Northwestern and George Washington universities.

At the age of 18 he created his own events company before joining the Noboa family business.

Noboa’s newly formed National Democratic Action alliance won only 17 of 137 parliamentary seats in the October election.

On Friday, he allied himself with the leftist movement of former president Rafael Correa and the right-wing Social Christian Party, to have a majority when it came to making key political appointments.


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