Alvaro Noboa: ‘I’ll be a presidential choice until I die’


Alvaro Noboa feels comfortable in his office of Industrial Molinera, in the south of Guayaquil. He expects that this week the National Electoral Council (CNE) confirms the approval of his new party Adelante Ecuatoriano Adelante, which will participate in the upcoming elections of 2017. Although he is open to form electoral alliances with other political groups of center ideology, he says that if he is proposed to be the candidate of the “renovation,” he is willing to be that person.

According to the businessman, the country needs two candidates: one from the ruling party and one from the renovation. If he accepts a candidacy for 2017, this would be his sixth nomination, because he has run five times for president since 1998; in 2006 he won the first round and lost the second against Rafael Correa. He is unwilling to not be a presidential choice: “I will do it until I die.”
Have you already decided a presidential candidacy with your new party Adelante Ecuatoriano Adelante? 
Four parties have offered me the candidacy for President, among those the Adelante Ecuatoriano Adelante party, in addition to other movements and independent groups. But I think that given the political situation, the only way for a real change is with two candidates: one who runs for the continuity the government and another for the renovation, for change, someone who is willing to make things better.
Do you see yourself as the candidate of the renovation?
If all parties come to an agreement and choose me, I would obviously be interested, but unlike what people think, I´m not so interested in being president, I´m interested in improving things in the country. If I have hand over my candidacy because all the forces that want a change, that want the renovation, want another candidate I would support him.

That would be your sixth presidential candidacy …
I’ve won two, President Rodrigo Borja had five candidacies too and the press never makes that question to him. He just won once, and four times he was not president. They are used to make always the same question, to see if I bite, but I don´t, I never bite.
Then you would run for a sixth nomination?
Sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth … I will serve the Ecuadorian people as Rodrigo Borja, he won once, the other times he lost.

Is it possible to launch a single nomination that confronts Correismo?
That’s the hard part because there is still no consensus. I’m a center-left candidate. I won the presidency in 1998 against Jamil Mahuad with the support of the left, my vice president Alfredo Castillo had been a convinced communist, but decided to change his ideas because ours to move the country forward seemed good to him. In 2006 I won against economist Rafael Correa in the first round.

What makes this consensus impossible?
We must have patience and I have asked God to inspire all the groups that want a renovation, which belong to the opposition and that want change, to put aside their vanity, because this is a matter of vanity, and that they seek a candidate who can solve the problems of Ecuadorians in a given historic moment.
But opting for a sixth nomination, would not it be a vanity of yours?
Not at all, it is a sacrifice, it costs me money, it causes me stress, fatigue, everything. But the current president of Peru was elected at 78 years of age and therefore is a patriot and I also consider myself a patriot.

So have not you thought of retiring from being a presidential choice?
Are you going to retire as a journalist? You will do so until you dies, I will do it too until I die, serving to the Ecuadorian people.
You are a businessman …
I will not stop being a businessman. I have served the country in many ways, I have served as a businessman (…) I have also served the country running several times as a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, I have served in so many ways and why have I done it? For the immense love I have to God and for the great gratitude I have because I am a happy man, whose happiness comes from the presence of God in his heart and there is no better way to thank him than serving all people.
You have said that this costs time, money and stress. How much have your five presidential campaigns cost?
I do not keep accounts but I’ll introduce you to the accountant.
Until a few years ago it was said that you had spent about USD 10 million?
Well, only the fines cost 5 million. I’m not like Scrooge McDuck who swims into a banknotes pool and talks all day about money, I talk about work all day, I’m not counting money.
What guarantees that now is your political moment in relation to 2006, when you won the first round?
First, Correa will not run for president again. Second, I think that Lenin Moreno will neither run, I think he has health problems. I think he does not belong to the group that is akin to economist Correa, he gets along better with Acosta, Larrea, they belong to other wing. And I also think that Lenin does not want to run, I asked him. The balance is tipped towards vice president Jorge Glas.

So, anyone can beats him?
-He laughs.- I can only tell you that whoever wins, it must be the people, is the people who must win, that’s what matters. I’m not like you sometimes describe me, as someone vain, as someone who counts the money, I’m not like that. I am a spiritual person who also likes to work.
During the last campaign you got a little more than 330,000 votes, What makes you think that now it will be different?
Because now there is a great popular disappointment product of national problems. Today there is poverty, there is unemployment, there are also health problems, there are many angles of the crisis. What solutions are there? The most important solution is the generation of jobs, and like it or not, employers grant jobs.
A lot of Ecuadorians have their money abroad for fear, because there have been persecutions. I have been a victim of this persecution, remember La Clementina case, the government snatched from the Noboa Group a company worth more than 100 million dollars, while my competitors paid 200 000, 300 000 dollars.
And the state is a bad administrator, this Clementina ranch later served as an airport for drug traffickers. La Clementina workers are extremely disappointed with what has happened, that was the largest estate of Ecuador.

But the Ministry of Labour says that you still owe money to 1 800 workers….
Look, every month and I sleep peacefully, I have demands from the state, employees, Juanito, Pedrito, etc, etc, they are chasing money. How can I solve a problem like that? A judge has to solve these claims. How can it be that workers who are the owners of that estate request a settlement payment? Then they should request themselves that payment if they own the estate. Furthermore, I never told them not to come to work at other farms I own, they had the doors open to work in other farms.
You mean that after transfer the estate to the Labor Ministry, they began to be employees of the Ministry and no longer yours?
No, they became owners, then those who have to pay the liquidation are themselves, they have to pay themselves.
Your businesses are not in crisis as others that have been hit by the Ecuadorian crisis?
In fact there is less consumption of domestic products, but our companies are mostly of exportation. We go to countries where there is consumption, while there has been a small decrease in the consumption of local products.
Did the Labor Ministry say it would auction 64 property if you do not pay? What are those assets?
I do not know what they are, I’m honest I do not know. We have a team of nearly 30 lawyers who work in the Noboa Group, 130 companies make up the group.

So, back to the electoral topic, do you have solutions for the crisis?
Of course, the first solution is legal certainty, that means you can resort to a judge to complain if you have been affected by the State or another citizen. Foreigners and many Ecuadorians believe that this does not exist in the country, that orders come from above, so the State always wins judgments even if you have the reason, like La Clementina case. Upon seeing we could not have justice here, we went to the OAS and we hope this is resolved in the coming years, it does not take days.

Are you going to bring your capital from abroad?
We have money abroad because of politics, that´s why it is called a multinational, we first invest in Ecuador, which is the country where we were born, but we also invest all over the world. And we have current accounts in all major countries of the world.
Where will you invest?
Wherever our money is welcomed.
In the country?
First in Ecuador and in other countries where we are better welcomed than right here in Ecuador.
Do you feel rejected then?
I feel persecuted.
Why do you think the Government persecutes you? 
I have nothing personal against economist Rafael Correa, he does have something personal against me and I do not know why. But I do not, because I am a Catholic Christian, I do not even feel hate, or hold grudges, but do I notice he has an obsession.
The solutions you mentioned are also shared by other candidates like Lasso has already and Viteri, How will these solutions materialize with many nominations of the trend?
That is why I agree with the concept of uniting all political trends in one.
But Guillermo Lasso has already said no …
Well, he will have to think again.
Have you met with him?
I am a personal friend of him, he is ideologically _ of right, I am of center.
And with the Unit?
I’m a friend of everyone. I don´t have, thank God, enemies. There are people who hate me, but I love humanity.
And have you met with Jaime Nebot? 
I voted for him for mayor, I think he is a great citizen and a great mayor.

Do you think that Lasso can present a few months before the call for elections that candidate for the renovation you speak about?
No, that’s why I propose the union of all and am willing to excuse myself if the country wins, even if you think I’m interested in the Presidency, I am interested in the country. If the country wins I take away my nomination, and I will gladly support that person who makes a consensus among all candidates.
Will you be the link that unites the trend?
That’s my intention.
But how are you going to do it? Do you already have an agenda?
I have already talked with some and I will keep talking with others.

How many representatives your party has?
Remember we had 26 of 100 congressmen in 2006 and Dr. Annabella Azín was the most voted, then among those 26 still remain good figures, but I’m looking for new people, professionals who are not necessarily political actors.
Suddenly you feel that some members of the party abandoned you?
Vicente Taiano, Shirley Borja went to Commitment Ecuador … Yes, the answer is yes.
Who lost?
Why did they loose?
If they knew what people say about them……
Did they mean votes in election matters?
One, theirs. I love the people very much, the people love me a lot and they voted for them because I asked them to vote for them.
So why did you have them in your party if they did not represent one vote?
Because at the time they were people of one line. Things happen to humans, then, divorce would not exist  -laughs.-