A Conversation with Lenín Moreno

Irene Estefania Gonzalez / Inter-American Dialogue

On April 16, the Inter-American Dialogue had the honor of hosting President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador during his visit to the United States. Dialogue co-chair, Ambassador Thomas Shannon, delivered welcoming remarks and Dialogue resident, Michael Shifter, moderated the discussion. President Moreno provided insight into the steps his government is taking to resolve the countries fiscal deficit as well as his administration’s work with multilateral institutions, among other topics. He also addressed the recent scandals that have plagued his time in office in addition to his country’s policy reversal towards Venezuela.

Ambassador Shannon brought attention to the steps taken by the Moreno administration to improve bilateral relations with the US. Shannon remarked on the courage and dignity with which Moreno has conducted his political career. He also referred to Moreno’s humanism in using humor for healing and to live a better life.

Moreno began by remarking how it was a pleasure to be at the Inter-American Dialogue since dialogue is one of the cornerstones of his administration. He criticized his predecessor’s administration for trying to “own the truth” and went on to explain that it would be the first time in 17 years that an Ecuadorean President would visit the Organization for American States (OAS). President Moreno focused on the values and principles that guide his government such as kindness, responsibility and solidarity.

Michael Shifter asked about the challenge of reversing years of populist policies by the Correa administration, particularly considering the legislative changes required as part of the agreements with various multilateral financial institutions. Moreno discussed the difficulty of dealing with uncertainty and stated the best way to deal with these matters is transparency and honesty.

Regarding the challenge of protecting the environment while using his country’s natural resources efficiently, Moreno pointed to a popular consultation from February 2018 in which the Ecuadorean electorate decided against mineral exploitation near cities because of potential harm to water sources. Another result was to reduce the area for oil exploration in the Amazon. He underscored the importance of protecting the environment combined with the importance of developing new technologies and investing in science.

Shifter then asked President Moreno about the high levels of contraband reported in his country’s border with Brazil and the risks this posed for foreign investors. Moreno referred to the reforms to trade and economic laws his government had achieved. He discussed the change of behavior compared to the previous administration, describing his government as serious and respectful of judicial security, an important component in reassuring investors to bring in more capital.

Shifter went on to ask about Moreno’s decision to reverse his predecessor’s policy of supporting Maduro and recognizing Juan Guaidó in Venezuela. Moreno said that every country must find its own way but that the Venezuelan dictator presents a challenge to his country’s governability which prompted him to support Juan Guaido’s proposed transition. Shifter then switched topics to ask how Moreno perceived Chinese investment in the region. Moreno said China is a great nation that has always been there for the countries of the region and blamed Correa, not China, for running a massive national debt which he hoped could be refinanced in the future.

The event concluded with questions from the audience. Regarding the claims that Julian Assange was leading an espionage operation from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, Moreno accused outside economic interests of financing Assange’s activities and stated that Assange violated aslyum norms. Another member of the audience asked about what the Moreno administration could do to strengthen the Ecuadorean party system to which Moreno responded that his government had been taking steps over the last two years to strengthen Ecuadorean democracy where political groups have dispersed. He expressed his hope that his countries politicians would work to build strong political coalitions. When asked about his government’s educational reforms Moreno pointed out that his predecessor’s millennium school had logistical issues since the small townships were spread out causing children to have to travel long distances every day to go to school. This has prompted his administration to create a policy to return to smaller communal schools.

Press Coverage:

El Telégrafo

Bloomberg

Watch the recording of this event here