(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
QUITO - Lenin Moreno was sworn in as Ecuador's president on Wednesday following a tight electoral race that the former vice president won on promises of maintaining the social programs of his leftist predecessor, Rafael Correa.
The 64-year-old socialist won a runoff last month in the oil-exporting country, bucking a shift to the right in South America as leftist governments struggle to maintain support.
He has promised a more conciliatory style and open dialog with adversaries and foreign companies, in contrast to Correa's often combative manner.
"I am the president for all of you. I owe you all a great debt and respect you all," Moreno said after a ceremony at the country's National Assembly.
Engineer Jorge Glas, a childhood friend of Correa, continues as vice president.
Hours after the ceremony, Correa, 54, who served as president for 10 years, was taken to a hospital. An aide said Correa had pneumonia.
For the next four years, Moreno, who once served as vice president under Correa, said he would continue his predecessor's fight for the poor with a social plan that includes free education, health and housing for lower-income families, and subsidies to eradicate extreme poverty.
He promised a change of style, based on dialog and openness with the private sector, as well as with the media.
"All of us will form part of a deeply enriching national dialog," said Moreno, offering an olive branch to the press, saying it was part of that conversation.
Correa's critics in the media have long complained of being muzzled.
Moreno must deal with an economy suffering high job demand and heavy public debt as well as major corruption allegations against outgoing officials.
He promised more support for agriculture and tourism, adding he would provide cheap credit and push to modernize infrastructure.
Debt terms will be improved, he said, and the relationship between the state and multinationals transformed.
His oil minister, Carlos Perez, is a former Halliburton executive.