February 23, 2017
Several of the people who were victims of the banking crisis in Ecuador in 1999 said on Wednesday they call for Ecuadoreans to “reflect” on the presidential elections. The organization describes Guillermo Lasso, who earned the second spot in the upcoming April runoff election, as responsible for the crisis as the economy minister at the time and head of the biggest banks in the country.
“How does someone want to be the president who was not good as minister of economy and forced about two million Ecuadoreans to leave? So we ask the citizens to reconsider, to reflect. We cannot lose ten years,” said Carlos Tutiven, head of the Victims Front of the Banking Crisis.
Tutiven was a strong critic of Lasso, who he says had a political responsibility in the event that took place 18 years ago, during the presidency of Jamil Mahuad.
In 1999, the government froze all bank accounts with more than $500 for up to a year, leading to the crisis. In an effort to protect the banks in the country, Mahuad’s government assumed the debt and drove two million Ecuadoreans and their families to leave the country.
The only option to retrieve money was a deposit certificate given by the banks, in which an account user could only retrieve 50 to 60 percent of their money. Even so, the banks that made this transaction could later exchange these certificates for the real value. Lasso resigned two days after the scandal, saying he didn’t agree with the decision to stop paying the country’s foreign debt. Coincidentally, his bank was a major holder of debt bonds.
Lasso’s resignation also followed the rejection of his request to raise the sales tax from 10 percent to 15 percent in the middle of the economic crisis. The crisis also led to the country abandoning its own currency in favor of the U.S. dollar in January 2000.
“Because of the banking crisis, many families had to separate. Many parents had to leave their children in the country and that was the fault of the minister we had in that year,” said Cecibel Noriega, one of the members of the organization.
Noriega highlighted the fact that President Rafael Correa created programs to motivate migrants to return to the country.
“Thanks to the Welcome Home Plan, which was promoted by the current government, I was able to return to my country and start a business in my country, which I had to leave after the bank crisis,” said Roxana Castro.
President Rafael Correa announced Wednesday he will lead a demonstration on March 8 to remember the banking crisis “when corruption was legalized from the political power in the hands of the bankers.”
The National Electoral Council announced Wednesday night that the presidential race will head to a second round since Alianza Pais’ Lenin Moreno came less than 1 percentage point away from getting the 40 percent needed to win a first-round victory.