Ecuadorean indigenous groups hold leadership ceremony for Lasso


TAMBOLOMA, Ecuador (Reuters) – Hundreds of indigenous Ecuadoreans on Wednesday held a traditional ceremony to recognize the leadership of President Guillermo Lasso, a former banker who has vowed to work with the politically influential native peoples.

Lasso, 65, was received in the Andean province of Tungurahua by Quichua indigenous groups who gave him a decorated wooden pole known as a “baton of command” as well as the symbols of hierarchy including a whip and a traditional red poncho.

Braving extremely cold temperatures, the Quichua leaders transferred “positive energies” from the land and water to the president, who took office on Monday for a four-year period.

“The baton of command means (…) the delivery of friendship, trust, and commitment between the native peoples and you, Mr. President,” said Manuel Caizabanda, a prefect of Tungurahua.

“Never forget the tears, the hugs, the smiles, the words of strength and hope that they delivered throughout the country.”

The indigenous movement declined support for Lasso in the April runoff vote. But the Pachakutik party later negotiated an alliance with the Lasso’s political party in order to win the leadership of the legislature.

The indigenous leaders held similar ceremonies when former presidents Rafael Correa and Lenin Moreno took office.

“I receive the baton with humility, and with the commitment that all of you and make that a people who want progress can make their dreams come true,” said Lasso in the community of Tamboloma, where he said a few phrases in the Quichua language.

Lasso was elected on promises to create jobs and reactivate an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as to provide financing for rural areas and free seeds to improve the quality of the agricultural production.

But Lasso has few clear paths to stimulate economic growth given tight state finances and a legislature led by the Pachakutik, which has opposed austerity measures.

(Reporting by Tito Correa in Tamboloma, Ecuador; Writing by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and David Gregorio)

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