This is the full text of the speech by Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso translated to English from the inauguration ceremony:
“Today is May 24, 2021. Exactly one year from the bicentennial of the Battle of Pichincha, the last of several deeds that consecrated the independence of our nation, and that began our journey towards our life as a republic.
It is a day of remembrance, but above all of, renewal. Because the government that is born today has before it the responsibility of leading us towards a new century of the Ecuadorian republic.
Today we must examine whether throughout these 200 years we have lived up to those republican ideals that saw us born. If we have done honor to those patriots who, by dying on the slopes of Pichincha, gave life to this country.
Heroes who fought for enlightened ideas such as the rule of law, individual freedom, and brotherhood among human beings.
I ask: does the country we receive today respond to the greatness of that sacrifice?
Especially in recent years, have you enjoyed freedom in Ecuador? Have the law and the independence of powers prevailed? Has equal opportunity reigned?
Ecuadorians know me as a man of action. They know that I measure everything based on the results that reality shows. Because only this reveals whether we have had the courage to put into practice that task entrusted to us by the founders of our State.
And reality clearly says no. We have not been up to the task.
Today we receive a country with historical levels of unemployment. A country that has been dazzled by its inability to face a brutal pandemic, but which countries in similar conditions faced in a more orderly, efficient, and corruption-free manner.
A country where the culprits fatten their pockets while the most innocent – newborn Ecuadorians – cannot even fill their stomachs. Where the indicators of chronic child malnutrition are among the highest in the region.
A country with lacerating inequalities between the rural and urban world. A country that has failed its youth in education and creating opportunities. That keeps its retirees in the most humiliating oblivion. Where being a woman is not only a factor of disadvantage, but of existential danger.
Today that we are at the gates of a new centennial of republican life, I invite you to ask yourself: why?
Why do we have such a rich land, but such poor citizens?
Why do we have such abundant natural resources, but live in the midst of scarcity?
Why, having such fertile soil, does our economy not produce well-being for those who need it most?
The questions can be thousands. But the answer is only one. It is always the same.
And it is that our rulers have failed us.
They have not been able to live up to the sacrifice of our people, a true example of work. Nor have they known how to take advantage of the vast resources that nature has given us.
They have failed us for the simple reason that they betrayed our founding principles. In the midst of so much quarrel and internal struggle, they yielded to the worst of political weaknesses: the authoritarian temptation.
They dedicated themselves to the obscene cult of the caudillo [leader], that “messiah” who supposedly knows everything: what is right and what is wrong, what is good for us and what hurts us. An enlightened person who acts and thinks for everyone, who has all the questions and all the answers.
They have never been able to accept that this country was born as a democratic republic, and that its destiny is to live forever as a democratic republic.
But all that changes this May 24. In this government that is being born today, in this new century of republicanism that we are about to start, the era of the caudillos ends. Today we claim this glorious day and begin the fight to recover the democratic soul of our country.
And that starts with the most basic and even obvious things, but what we are obliged to say. It begins by not accumulating more power in the figure of the president. Because experience tells us that those who seek all power later end up seeking mercy for the crimes that occur when that power gets out of hand.
We will remain faithful to the strict margins dictated by law. We will have the humility, but above all the strength to say: I will be president. And only president.
We will not chase anyone. We will not silence anyone. We will rule for all. This means not governing in favor of a privileged sector, but also not against anyone. Whatever opinion you have, whatever criticism you make.
Someone must say “this ends here.” Even knowing the political dangers that it entails; even knowing that others would already be exhibiting here, on this stage, a macabre list of enemies and persecuted.
Someone must have the courage to take the risk and break the vicious cycle. And at this point in history that can only be done by this new government.
Therefore, so be it. The political persecution in Ecuador is over. I have not come to satisfy the hatred of a few, but the hunger of many.
I will be the democratic head of a democratic state. My strength will not come from how high I raise my voice to shout, but from how much I will listen to the people before speaking.
Behind the ruins of the caudillo cult, a democracy is beginning to be built that uses the power limited by the laws to make the dreams of its citizens bigger.
A democracy where no one is singled out as a peddler or enemy of the homeland, and whose only enemies are disease, illiteracy, malnutrition, and gender violence. That is the April 11 mandate [April 11th was the date of the runoff election to decide the president of Ecuador].
Many ask me how we managed to bring about that day the great peaceful change that has amazed the continent and the world.
The answer is very simple. What happened was democracy itself. After more than ten years of authoritarianism, aggression, and attempts to establish a perpetual regime, Ecuadorians assimilate the greatest democratic lesson: that there is no democracy without participation.
Today, we citizens want to give. We want to contribute without asking for anything more than the hope of making a better country. We want our vote to mean a more just country with women, a more responsible country with nature, more equitable with those most in need.
That all the politicians of this country get used to the fact that politics is this: a fundamental desire of citizens to contribute to the common good, to the collective good.
May this democracy that we recover today be forever a torrent where people bring together their ideals, each one more admirable and valuable than the other. And that, together, these ideals serve to build a diverse country where we will all have a place.
Thus, more than fourteen years later, and at the gates of a new century of republican life, in Ecuador we learned that there is only one possible response to authoritarianism: democracy, democracy and more democracy. Together we all decided to drown evil in abundance of good.
That is the way, Ecuadorians. The correct road. We know that we are not wrong because developed democracies have not been wrong. Their great advances in economic well-being, in health, in education, show that they have not been wrong. And no matter how great the pressure will be to replace our still weak institutions with the violence of the screams, we will not deviate one millimeter from the path we have set out. We will not give in. Because that would be doing more damage.
That vicious cycle ends today. And today the path to the Ecuador of the encounter begins.
We carry the spirit of the encounter in the name of our country: Ecuador.
We are a land where hemispheres, regions, climates, and cultures come together. We are the heirs of a meeting of civilizations that forever changed the course of humanity. We are depositories of ancestral knowledge of this land, and that in time have merged with the cultures that came from the old world seeking freedom.
But all that history must become a more just future. Ecuador must also mean a promise of balance in common life. Balance between the causes of its people. Balance between economic growth and social justice, two cornerstones that will be the foundations of a more prosperous and equitable country.
A country where all children can cultivate their minds regardless of their conditions of origin. Where young people will have the freedom to reflect and seek the vocation that best develops their spirits, without pressure and without fear of failure. Where material prosperity also means cleaning our air, our forests and seas.
And it is that the encounter is not an abstract concept. It is, above all, the certainty that the causes of this Government will be the causes of the people. That the will of the Government will be the will of the people, moved by the same objectives and the same hopes.
More than a dream, they will be actions directed by an efficient State to eradicate hunger, disease, lack of education, and abandonment. Let there be no doubt: our intention is not to minimize the State, but to maximize its capacity to serve the poorest.
A little over 40 years ago, President Jaime Roldós Aguilera already demanded it of us: “The people want water. The people want water. ” Time has passed, various governments have come and gone, but the problems remain. The first point where we must find ourselves is in our rural areas, where our brothers in the countryside still suffer from a shortage of services such as drinking water and sewerage. Today, as we recall one more year of his premature departure, we make our own the words of President Roldós. We take back his promise: water for the people. And not only water, but also essential infrastructure such as roads, lighting, schools, and hospitals.
Another encounter point is to recognize that the fight for gender equality is not just a women’s problem. It is a national problem. An Ecuadorian problem that must be addressed by the Ecuadorian Government.
When unemployment affects women more than men; When an Ecuadorian woman earns less for the same job, an inequity is produced that tears the social fabric, starting with the families. And when an Ecuadorian woman is attacked, we all suffer the wounds. It makes us a less free, less just and morally tainted country. Women’s rights are human rights. And we will put in place all the necessary policies to guarantee them.
Another encounter point is the eradication of hunger, especially child malnutrition. This is perhaps the worst of the inequalities because its consequences last over time, in the growth problems suffered by thousands of children who currently do not receive adequate food. Today’s unforgivable inaction is costing us tomorrow. But the time has come to act. This country of encounter will protect all its children equally, no matter where they are born.
The encounter is also built with the trust that we are generating in the world. After many years, the planet turns its eyes back to Ecuador. Just when the news of our election was released, the country risk was reduced by more than 500 points. Even before taking office, one of the first tasks of any government was accomplished: creating a positive atmosphere for work and growth.
But that renewed confidence must commit all of us, especially those in Ecuador who have the capacity to undertake and create jobs. From now on we call on you to start the economic reactivation without fear. Here is the expected opportunity. Show that without harassment, without persecution, you are ready to put your resources at the service of the country, and not the country at the service of its resources. Show your national commitment. To paraphrase a few words from President Kennedy: as long as, as a country, we cannot help the poorest, this Government will not be able to help the richest.
There is another meeting point that has been eluded for too long. And it is beyond our borders. The last two decades have been a time of wonderful technological change. We are going through a fascinating era of invention that has rendered many notions of the past obsolete. And while the modern world was getting smaller, advancing in connectivity, in commerce and digital education, in Ecuador they told us that we should lock ourselves in, that we should make it more difficult for our talent to go out and compete in the world.
But the reality is that no country can live in isolation. We are all connected. In the same way that no human being can live without being part of a family and a society, likewise a country cannot turn its back on the family of nations that make up the world. Isolation, confinement, only leads to decadence.
As a country, we cover a relatively small territory. But the talent of our people is infinite. It is time for a leadership with a big vision as the capabilities of its citizens. Today Ecuador declares that it opens its doors to world trade. To the Pacific Alliance. To free trade agreements with our greatest allies. We will fully insert ourselves in the world to seek free and fair trade.
Let the world also know that we are committed to the main international consensus to achieve sustainable development. In 2015, the Declaration “Transforming our world: Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development” was adopted, an agreement that agrees that all people need health, education, housing, employment, energy, equality, peace and healthy ecosystems to live with dignity. The principle is “not leaving anyone behind,” which puts the inclusion of citizens equal to the priority of our work. All are objectives that this Government shares and will actively promote.
Sustainable development starts from the eradication of poverty in all its forms: the fight against inequality, the preservation of the planet, sustained economic growth, and the promotion of social inclusion. We must include the marginalized from progress, the poorest of the poor. For this we need to change the orientation of public policies in order to control climate change, build sustainable cities, change consumption patterns and protect our oceans.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will mean decades of delay in human development. It is urgent to take action to reverse them. The 2030 Agenda is a roadmap that requires the meeting of all humanity.
This brings us perhaps to the most critical point in which we must find ourselves: our health. We have difficult months ahead that will test our national resolve. Today, while we are here at this ceremony, we cannot forget that there are families suffering. Ecuadorians desperate to get a bed in a hospital. Ecuadorians suffering. Ecuadorians dying.
The country has to mobilize. Ministries, public and private hospitals, doctors, nurses, municipalities, parish boards, medical dispensaries, anyone who has the strength and knowledge to give the vaccine, or to help someone else provide it.
The pandemic does not care about our economy. It doesn’t care about our businesses or our jobs. But neither does it care who stops it, be it a pharmacy or a public hospital. That is why we will respond from multiple fronts, joining all our forces to maximize solutions that corner the virus. It will be the largest logistical deployment in our history to fulfill the most sacred duty of a Government: to save the lives of its citizens.
In undertaking this task we need to know that we are not alone. We need the goodwill of the entire international community, regardless of political leanings. We need to buy more vaccines. All that are possible. Health has no ideologies or colors. This global evil needs a global response. The people of Ecuador and its Government will know how to respond with the gratitude that has always characterized us.
As of today, the plan that will aim to vaccinate 9 million people in my first 100 days in office comes into force. The renewed Ministry of Public Health will have the direct support of the Vice President of the Republic and the Vaccination Coordination Unit. We will vaccinate without rest because the virus does not rest. We will do it seven days a week, in each province, in each town and parish and we will also call on the help of the National Electoral Council.
And when those first 100 days have passed, we will continue vaccinating until the task has been fully accomplished. And when the onslaught of the pandemic has subsided, and greater tranquility begins to breathe in our country, then an even greater task will begin. The real challenge. The struggle to lead Ecuador once and for all on the path of prosperity.
This is not a mere list of promises. Ours will not be a government that only promises; it will be a government that also commits us. As Ecuadorians we all share the same destiny. It is everyone’s obligation to take on the challenges that the future imposes on us, enormous challenges that cannot be faced in isolation by either the President of the Republic or this honorable National Assembly.
To realize the dream of a democratic government, of the people and for the people, an unprecedented democratic concurrence is necessary. Regardless of where we occupy, what role we play, let us act with the conviction that we all have a contribution to offer on this irreversible path to full democracy.
We need the best of this Government, of the citizens, and of each democratic party as well, especially those gathered here. Here, before the eyes of our constituents, I make a call for unity that must be addressed civically. Because our loyalty goes beyond a few acronyms, beyond the colors of some parties. Our loyalty is, above all, to the yellow, blue and red of Ecuador [the deeply symbolic colors of the flag].
Obviously, that does not mean that I seek the obsequiousness of recent years. Rather, what I expect from this assembly is passionate but loyal debate; vibrant but constructive, where the search for truth and good for the people always prevails. A debate that restores lost prestige to politics. Democracy is not the absence of differences or even conflicts. Democracy is the search for the peaceful and legal treatment of these differences. This is how the Ecuador of the encounter should be.
Beyond my exercise as president, my desire as a democrat is to witness the parliamentary recovery as the scene of popular sovereignty. The promise of full democracy requires that various State agencies, starting with this Assembly, regain their lost powers. No more concentration of functions in an organism dependent on the will of a person. Never again nationalization of citizen participation. Never again a poor organization in the fight against corruption. However, until the people decide otherwise, I will respect the current institutional framework.
The novelist Jorge Icaza said that in Spanish America there are no interior monologues, but interior dialogues. I said it because our identity is not “complete” yet. And this is because the Ecuadorian identity is born, grows, questions, reflects on itself yesterday, today and until the sun goes out. Because identity is not one. It is plural, it is about dialogues, encounters, disagreements and reunions. It is being in constant learning with the Other. Finding what we love about the other and giving the other what they need. The antagonistic exists and will exist, and our challenge is to find the center to reap a superior alliance. The difference is always enriching. Let’s be different, but let’s stay connected. “They are not clashes, it is complementarity and mutual help. It’s Minga [common term used in Ecuador to mean mobilization or working together to solve a problem or clean up a mess], Madam President of the National Assembly.
These are words that move me to meet my fellow citizens. To summon members of civil society to reactivate. To fill each space, each cause, with the goodness of their actions. In the last 42 years of our democracy, leading roles were granted to the State and the market. However, society has never been located in the center of that triangle, even when it has developed projects of social agreements, the State has given few signs of listening.
My Government will change that story. Today, in this transmission of command, it should not be the President alone who takes up the challenge. We must all be together. May all citizens feel that power returns to its true owners: you. This Government will encourage society in all its manifestations to adopt cooperation initiatives in the development of its State and its economy. That is why I have allowed myself to invite to this ceremony a sample of non-governmental organizations, which are not all that should have been, but they do embody the will of this Government to reactivate these segments of society.
In our country “there are opposite colors that become complementary: there are men and women, the past, present and future. The horizontal and the vertical are interwoven, the heavenly and the earthly, the earth and the air, the water and the fire. A center where we all have our reason for being and no one or nothing surpasses. There is a center in which we find ourselves and that is a seed of democracy. Beyond the photos and colors, the ballot, the ballpoint, the long lines and slips of paper, the ballot box, the percentages and statistics, winners and losers. It is about dialogue on the same level. It is about comprehending and understanding the person across the street. It is building and not imposing. ”
In this sense, I want to confirm once again that I will be the head of a secular state. However, that does not imply a country where our spiritual side is denied. Nor does it prevent us from promoting a great reconciliation between the State and all the religions that coexist in Ecuador. May our beliefs be bridges. May our convictions nurture a deeper and more humane encounter.
Although many young people may not believe it, there was a time when politics had the power to excite, because decency still shone in it. The following words of President Jaime Roldós Aguilera still echo in me. I quote: “National independence and social progress have never been the fruit of the isolated action of any government, but the result of the theoretical firmness, political honesty and the sacrificial perseverance of the entire community. Destiny is not done; it is worked every day, without hatred, without revenge, without renunciations. Together we must work to build a new historical time, where the people not only preserve their inalienable right to self-determination, but also to exercise their leading role in the exercise of an authentic democracy. ”
I have never stopped believing in our power to change destiny. One of my marks from a young age has been my total refusal to let myself be dominated by circumstances, or by what my life was supposed to be. And that same conviction has brought me here because political activity must also be a way of rebelling against fate, especially the one that some dark interests want to impose on us. Let politics be the collective instrument to dominate adversity. That together we change this present to make it the destination that we want, building that new historical time in which the Ecuadorian people will be, finally, the free protagonist of their own history.
That is our challenge. I, as President, can only hope that my actions speak as eloquently as the words of Roldós. May my decisions reflect your thoughts; May my conscience respond to your ideals, and thus awaken in young people the same civic fervor that sprouted in me forty years ago.
Finally, I can’t finish without thanking you. First to God, from whom I ask for the wisdom to guide my country on this path where many before me were lost. May he grant me the prudence to always discern between what is convenient and what is correct, between what is temporary and what is eternal.
To my parents. Whose legacy always reminds me that no matter how far one goes. What counts is never forgetting where you started from.
Thanks to my wife María de Lourdes, the love of my life, the beginning and the end of everything. This journey that we began forty years ago would not have been completed without the love with which you have filled it.
Thanks to my children, because despite their youth, I have learned much more from them than they have learned from me.
First of all, thanks to the Ecuadorian people for trusting me. Wonderful people, working people. The best people a president can aspire to. I am joined by the illusion that since I was a child for this country, for its ability to get up and work.
I know, Ecuadorians, that I was never the most conventional candidate. I am the first to be aware of my every flaw. And likewise I am the first to try to correct them every day.
I also know how unlikely this day seemed to many. That at one point all of this seemed like an impossible battle.
But the truth is that this was due – in part – to the fact that for many years our predecessors took it upon themselves to disfigure our reputation and life history. And they did the same with many of the legislators who are sitting here in this House, today appointed as honorable representatives of our people.
As for example you, Madam President of the Assembly. Who would have thought that, one day, a former banker and an indigenous leader from the Amazon would come to preside – at the same time – these two functions of the state? Who could have said it? Who would have even dared to mention it? Yet here we are both. Ready to serve and, above all, eager to work together for the good of the country.
That is the amazing power that democracy gives to those of us who do believe in it. The power to challenge the very notions of what can be possible. The power not to conform to reality, but to mold it with our will.
It is the power to achieve what until a few weeks ago no one would have dared to imagine.
Well, it’s time to dare. Today is a concrete reality that opens a new world of possibilities and opportunities for our people. Let’s hug them. Let’s take advantage of them. Let’s make this the moment we have all sought, the moment we are not wrong, the moment we truly change.
This is not an error. This is not ungovernability. This is, on the contrary, an invitation to continue discovering ourselves. To continue on a new path, open before us, ready to be explored. A path that others, clinging to fear and division, did not even dare to tread.
This is to conquer new territories of peace, coexistence, and prosperity. It is venturing into a new destination in a new time. It is shaking off the defects of the past, and in doing so, daring to be another country, here and now, from this very moment, from this very instant.
This is achieving the unimaginable. This is making history.
Let’s dare, Ecuadorians, to change.
Finally, invoking once more the words of Roldós, I conclude: My power in the Constitution, and my heart in the Ecuadorian people!
Long live the eternally democratic, eternally republican Ecuador.”
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