Ecuador opposition candidate vows to remove Assange, denounce Venezuela

Fri Feb 17, 2017 8:47am EST
 
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By Alexandra Ulmer

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (Reuters) - Ecuador's lead opposition candidate is offering a sharp break with ten years of leftist rule in the Andean country, vowing to remove Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from the nation's London embassy, speak out against Venezuela's socialist government, and likely renegotiate debts with China.

Conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso is the opposition's frontrunner in Sunday's presidential election.

Polls suggest ruling party candidate, paraplegic former Vice President Lenin Moreno, 63, will win on Sunday but fall just short of enough votes to avoid an April runoff against Lasso, 61.

With analysts expecting the OPEC country's disparate opposition to unite behind Lasso in a potential second round, his victory would cement the return of the right in South America after a decade of a strong leftist bloc buoyed by a commodities boom.

In an interview at campaign headquarters in his humid coastal hometown of Guayaquil, Lasso vowed that within a month of taking office in May he would remove Assange from Ecuador's embassy, where he has been holed up since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.

"Ecuador had no business spending a single cent protecting someone who definitely leaked confidential information," Lasso said from his 24th-floor office at the headquarter, overlooking the Banco de Guayaquil where he was executive president from 1994 to 2012.

"I will take on the responsibility of inviting Mr. Assange to leave the Ecuadorean embassy at the latest 30 days after the start of our government," he added on Thursday afternoon.

Lasso also promised he would take a firm stance against the government of crisis-hit Venezuela, which is closely aligned with outgoing president Rafael Correa's leftist Country Alliance party.   Continued...

 
Guillermo Lasso, presidential candidate from the CREO party, talks to Reuters in Guayaquil, Ecuador February 16, 2017. Picture taken February 16, 2017. To match Interview ECUADOR-ELECTION/LASSO REUTERS/Guillermo Granja