Ecuadorean Party in Queens Unveils Campaign for Seats Back Home

Partido Avanza candidate Edwin Santamaría speaks while the other three candidates sit at the table behind him: Betty Mercedes Mendieta, Maribel Elizabeth Villacis and Loni Eduardo Sánchez. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino).

Surrounded by flags of Ecuador and the United States, the Partido Avanza (Forward Party) introduced in Queens its four candidates for the National Assembly. The two women and two men are running for the chance to represent Ecuadoreans living in the U.S. and Canada in their homeland’s main legislative body.

“In our party there is no boss; we are all citizens and leaders. We have statutes and we are going to make Ecuadorean immigrants get respect,” said Edwin Santamaría, a businessman and the party’s first candidate.

Partido Avanza presented the candidates at Corona’s Sabor Latino restaurant, which was decorated with blue and white balloons. The election will take place on Feb. 17 and all Ecuadoreans living abroad can vote.

“It’s time for a change, just like César Chávez did here in this country; for freedom,” said singer and General Assembly candidate Maribel Elizabeth Villacis. “Ecuadoreans in the U.S. are not well informed and we’re going to give them information.”

In its eight-point program, Partido Alianza vows to create bi-national documentation and medical insurance program, professional training and school vouchers for the children of immigrants. It will also promote economic incentives, culture, a community fund and the elimination of customs tariffs.

Villacis, a cancer survivor, stressed the promise of a medical insurance for millions of Ecuadoreans abroad, and said that “it will be funded by the government of Ecuador.”

Santamaría, who spoke in English, stressed that “We should educate our community in our traditions.” However, the other two candidates, Betty Mercedes Mendieta and Loni Eduardo Sánchez, didn’t speak.

Santamaría also ordered the microphone be taken away from Luis Rodríguez, who inquired about the customs tariffs. “He told me they are working on this point and that he wishes he had an answer,” said Rodríguez. “However, the debate was really edifying. Finally, the Ecuadorean community in New York is gaining respect and status.”

Partido Avanza will face President Correa’s Alianza País, the front-runner party in the national elections, which include presidential and parliamentary races. The other parties are Partido Social Cristiano, Sociedad Patriótica, Creo, Ruptura de los 25 and Movimiento Popular Demócrata. The Partido Avanza also announced that it would support the candidacy of President Correa.

“These Avanza candidates didn’t offer specifics when talking about their 8-point plan, it was all very vague,” said Diana Araujo, a student of political science at CUNY. “I also perceived some tension in the Q&A session. We Ecuadoreans need more dialogue and information between us and the candidates.”

The meeting was hosted by Hernán Cazar Luna and it featured several ballad singers such as Julio César El Emperador and Nilo Lauz of Los Iracundos.

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