Ecuador’s new President, Lenin Moreno, is an unusual politician for more reasons than just his idiosyncratic first name. Moreno is a paraplegic who was shot during a robbery-gone-wrong in 1998. In the course of his convalescence, Moreno turned to laughter therapy, later setting up a foundation to encourage humour and joy. He is likely to need all his reserves of good humour in his new position as he takes responsibility for his country’s governance.
Moreno’s victory celebrations are likely to be short-lived as the challenges of government land on his desk. His dilemma will be how to satisfy the demands of his left-wing supporters for continued high spending on Ecuador’s public services, while simultaneously managing a shrinking economy, whose reliance on stagnant oil revenues and addiction to debt, limit his room for manoeuvre. If he fails to solve this puzzle there is a risk that his government will be tempted to deal with public protests through heavy-handed state intervention. This has been seen in Ecuador before when in 2015 police used tear gas and clubs to disperse protesters.