Electoral recount and Colombian attorney General campaigning cloud Ecuador's run-off vote  

It's still up in the air who will be Andrés Arauz's rival  
El candidato presidencial ecuatoriano Andrés Arauz 

AFP/ RODRIGO BUENDIA   -   Ecuadorian presidential candidate Andrés Arauz 

When it is still not known for sure which candidate will compete with Andrés Arauz in the second round, whether the indigenous Yaku Pérez or the right-wing Guillermo Lasso, the visit of the Colombian Attorney General, Francisco Barbosa, has taken place to deliver information about the alleged financing of the National Liberation Army (ELN) to the campaign of the Ecuadorian left-wing candidate.   

The Colombian Attorney General's Office confirmed this on October 12 on Twitter, stating that the information came from the files of Andrés Felipe Venegas Londoño, one of the leaders of the ELN, who was killed in October last year by Colombian security forces.   

The visit follows a request from the Ecuadorian judicial authorities after the Colombian magazine Semana published files in late January supposedly found on the computer of "Uriel", as Andrés Felipe Venegas is known.   

The information published spoke of a loan of 80 billion Colombian pesos (about 18.8 million euros) to the campaign of Arauz, a candidate for the Union for Hope (UNES).   

According to the magazine, "Uriel's" computer also contained conversations with former president Rafael Correa, who has been living in Belgium with his wife, a Belgian national, since he left the presidency. Correa denied publications, accusing Semana of being "a branch of Uribism", in reference to former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.  

The former president of Ecuador assured that he had only been in contact with members of the ELN when, during his presidency, he offered Ecuador as a scenario for peace agreements between the guerrillas and the Colombian government, as Cuba had done in the agreements signed with the FARC.  

Politicians and civil society voices, both in Colombia and Ecuador, criticized that the Colombian attorney general, Francisco Barbosa, traveled to that country during the electoral period. Along the same lines, former Colombian president Ernesto Samper called the visit “foul play” and “infamy”; former Bolivian president Evo Morales described it as “interventionist and intimidating” action. 

For his part, Arauz flatly rejected the accusation and considers that this is an attempt to “disqualify him through undemocratic means” and described the news as a “gross lie.” 

Francisco Barbosa pronuncia un discurso durante la ceremonia en la que tomó posesión como nuevo Fiscal General de Colombia  PHOTO/SERGIO ACERO 
PHOTO/SERGIO ACERO -Francisco Barbosa delivers a speech during the ceremony in which he was sworn in as Colombia's new Attorney General.
CNE agrees to a partial recount of votes   

In Ecuador's presidential elections, for a candidate to win in the first round, he or she must obtain at least 40 per cent of the vote and a minimum distance of 10 per cent over the second candidate. Arauz obtained 32.7 per cent, insufficient to avoid a second round in April.   

However, it is still not entirely clear who his rival will be, and although banker Guillermo Lasso finally took second place (19.74%) in a close vote count, the big surprise of the night was the candidate of the indigenist Pachakutik party, Yaku Pérez, who obtained 19.38%.   

Pérez, who remained ahead of Lasso for much of the recount, was quick to make accusations of fraud and demand a recount of the votes, which the National Electoral Council (CNE) finally agreed to with the two candidates.   

The recount will take place in 17 provinces, including Guayas, the country's largest province, where 100 per cent of the tally sheets will be reviewed. In the other 16 of Ecuador's 24 provinces, 50 per cent of the tally sheets will be counted. The procedure will be broadcast live on the electoral authorities' channels.  

For its part, the Election Observation Mission (MOE) of the Organisation of American States (OAS) did not enter into an assessment of the accusations of fraud made by Pérez. 

"The margin between the second and third place contenders is very narrow. It is essential that the contesting candidates have the certainty that their votes are being looked after by the electoral authorities. It is important that all parties conduct themselves responsibly and settle their differences in an institutional manner," they said in a statement released by the organisation.   

Miembros del Consejo Nacional Electoral realizan el recuento de votos que presentan inconsistencias tras las elecciones generales de Ecuador en la Delegación Provincial Electoral de Pichcincha  AFP/ RODRIGO BUENDIA
AFP/ RODRIGO BUENDIA-Members of the National Electoral Council recount votes with inconsistencies after Ecuador's general election at the Pichcincha Provincial Electoral Delegation.
Arauz's victory in second round, uncertain 

What the vote count determines will be key to Arauz's chances of reaching the Carondelet Palace and with it the return of the "Citizen's Revolution", as Correism calls its years of government, which was cut short after Lenín Moreno's early divorce from his predecessor.  

According to polls, if Lasso were to go to the second round, Arauz would have a better chance of winning. On the contrary, he would see his chances of being Perez's challenger hindered.   

In all likelihood, Lasso and Pérez will support each other against the Correa candidate, whoever ultimately competes against him. However, even if Pérez asks for the support of his electorate for Lasso, it is not at all clear that they will support the banker en masse, something that Lasso's electorate would be less likely to do with Pérez as long as Correism does not return to the presidency of Ecuador.   

An election with regional implications  

Long gone are the golden days of the Latin American left when they ruled in practically every country in the region. The creation of UNASUR, a regional cooperation organisation, now in a coma, well represented the splendour of progressive forces and regional integration.   

However, although the Latin American left is not predominant, the situation is not the same as it was a couple of years or three years ago. The victory of Alberto Fernández in Argentina in 2019, and that of Luis Arce in Bolivia last year, was a respite for all progressive movements in the region, which had been in clear decline for years.   

Both the Argentinian and Bolivian presidents have shown their support for reviving UNASUR, something Arauz would also be in favour of if elected president, as he promised in November when he was in Bolivia for Arce's inauguration.   

What happens at the end of the year in the presidential elections in Chile, where Daniel Jadue, candidate of the Communist Party of Chile (PCCh), is favourite to win the first round, and also in Brazil in the 2022 elections, will also have an impact on the progress of Latin American regional integration.