Car horns in Quito blared in celebration Sunday as banana empire heir Daniel Noboa, 35, became Ecuador’s youngest-ever president-elect, vowing to “restore peace” to a country ravaged by a bloody drug gang war.
After the electoral authority declared him the victor and socialist rival Luisa Gonzalez conceded defeat, Noboa vowed that “tomorrow we begin work to rebuild a country that has been severely hit by violence, corruption and hatred.”
Long a peaceful haven between major cocaine exporters Colombia and Peru, Ecuador has seen violence explode in recent years as enemy gangs with links to Mexican and Colombian cartels vie for control.
The fighting has seen at least 460 inmates massacred in prisons since February 2021 — many beheaded or burned alive in mass riots.
The bloodbath has spilled into the streets, with gangs dangling headless corpses from city bridges and detonating car bombs outside police stations in a show of force.
In August, the violence claimed the life of anti-graft and anti-cartel presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, mowed down in a barrage of submachine-gun fire after a campaign speech.
He had been polling in second place.
A state of emergency was declared after former journalist Villavicencio’s assassination, and Noboa and Gonzalez both campaigned, and voted, in bullet-proof vests and with heavy security details.
On Sunday, Noboa told supporters in his home town of Olon in the southwest his goal was “to restore peace… to bring back education to the youth” and create jobs.