The vice president of Ecuador, Otto Sonnenholzner, on July 7, resigned from his post, which he had held since December 2018. According to the local media, his disagreements with various government officials led him to take the decision.
“A year and a half ago, without looking for it, I was presented with the opportunity to serve Ecuador from the vice presidency of the Republic and I accepted it. I will always thank the President for his trust and the National Assembly, which gave me the opportunity to serve my country from this institution in a constitutional way,” said Sonnenholzner on national television in the opening part of his statement.
He commented, “I take from here the satisfaction of the duty fulfilled, with the experience of having faced the most difficult crises that we have lived in a long time, working from the first day to the last minute.”
There are rumors that Sonnenholzner is planning a possible candidacy in the presidential elections in 2021. According to the country’s constitution, his resignation allows him to apply for a candidacy. However, in his speech he confirmed that at the moment, he hasn’t yet decided if he will participate in the elections, but emphasized the importance of the upcoming elections in the history of Ecuador.
“Ecuador will face one of the most relevant elections in its history and, for this reason, today, the best service that can be given to our country is to work on the construction of a path that takes us away from inequality, hunger, unemployment and corruption, evils that have haunted us for too long,” said Sonnenholzner. “I will make this effort from outside the Vice Presidency, so there will be no doubt regarding the use of public resources for this,” he added.
One of the actions that stood out from his mandate was the fight against the novel coronavirus in the city of Guayaquil, the hardest-hit city in Ecuador. He moved to the city, accompanied by several ministers of state and deployed the Joint Task Force in the city to mitigate the impacts of the virus.
Sonnenholzner was the third vice president of Lenín Moreno. He replaced María Alejandra Vicuña, who resigned in the midst of a corruption scandal, after holding office for 11 months (from January to December 2018). She had assumed the functions, after Jorge Glas, who had won the elections with Moreno in April 2017. Jorge Glas was suspended from his post in August 2017 and is serving a 6-year sentence in prison, for his alleged role in the infamous Odebrecht corruption case.
Moreno will now send a list of potential candidates for his fourth vice president to the National Assembly that has the authority to designate the vice president. This announcement adds to the economic and political crisis that has deepened in Ecuador over the past year under the leadership of President Lenín Moreno. His volte-face away from the Correa administration’s progressive and anti-imperialist policies has seen Ecuador accumulate significant debt with international financial institutions with a 4.2 billion dollar IMF loan in 2019, followed by significant cuts in public sector funding of key services like education, health and social programs. In October 2019, hundreds of thousands in Ecuador took to the streets for 12 consecutive days to reject the neoliberal economic polices of the government and sparked a wave of anti-neoliberal uprisings across the region and inspired protests across the world.
The steady debilitation of the public sector by the Moreno administration left the country grossly unprepared to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and Ecuador early on suffered one of the highest rates of infection and mortality. As of July 7, Ecuador has more than 62,380 confirmed cases and more than 4,821 deaths (many within Ecuador allege that this number is much lower than the reality as testing has been very limited).