The Catholic conservative pledging to change Ecuador's destiny

Quito (AFP) –


A former banker and Opus Dei devotee -- but above all an enemy of ex-president Rafael Correa -- Guillermo Lasso has returned the conservative right to power in Ecuador, winning Sunday's presidential election after two defeats that failed to discourage him.

It was third time lucky when the conservative beat leftist economist Andres Arauz.

In 2017 he was narrowly edged out by Lenin Moreno, while four years before that he finished a distant second in the first round as Correa romped to a landslide.

Now aged 65, Lasso, who walks with a stick due to a spinal injury from a botched medical procedure, has accepted the "challenge" of changing Ecuador's "destiny."

After reaching the run-off, he vowed to "listen to the different sectors of Ecuadoran society, especially those that initially weren't included" in his manifesto.

He has vowed to boost foreign investment in Ecuador, cut taxes and create a million jobs, and has already spoken about "extending a hand" to the country's indigenous people, who make up seven percent of the population, and the "necessity for a rural agenda", as he sought to win over those who voted for indigenous socialist leader Yaku Perez in the first round.

A married father of five, Lasso was the youngest of 11 children from a middle-class family.

He started working at 15 and rose to become president of the Bank of Guayaquil, his home city, despite never finishing his economics degree.

Lasso turned full-time to politics in 2012, serving as governor of the province of Guayas and as minister of the economy.

He describes himself as tolerant and democratic. Two areas in which he says he is prepared to listen to others are abortion and LGBT adoption rights.

"I have my personal position but as president of Ecuador I will have to recognize that there are 17 million Ecuadorans with different ways of thinking. I will respect those ways of thinking," he told AFP on the campaign trail.

Lasso has come under fire from environmentalists for his platform, with some critics branding his policies "toxic," but he insists he respects the environment.

"I've been clear in my conversations with environmental and ecological groups that the priority is to look after water, nature, life," said Lasso, who has pledged to continue oil exploration and mining.

"Ecuador is exploiting its resources but we will be careful to carry out environmental restoration because we cannot leave this planet without delivering it in a better state than we received it."