Lenin Moreno was declared the winner of Ecuador’s April 2 presidential election, becoming the first person with paraplegia to be elected as a head of state in Latin America. Moreno, who served as vice-president of Ecuador under Raphael Correa from 2007-2013, narrowly defeated banker Guillermo Lasso to become president-elect of the South American country.
Moreno was the candidate for the ruling, populist party, and campaigned on the promise to continue the social and poverty-reduction programs of Correa’s “Citizen’s Revolution.” The victory comes as something of a surprise in South America, where leftist leaders across the continent have been swept from power in recent years.
Moreno began using a wheelchair in 1998 after assailants shot him in the back during a botched robbery attempt. He was already an activist and involved with Ecuador’s political left before the shooting. Afterwards, disability-rights became central to his political career. While serving as vice-president he helped implement a variety of programs for people with disabilities, passed inclusive labor laws, began installing curb cuts and accessible crosswalks throughout the country, and created a fund to pay monthly stipends for people with disabilities who are unable to work.
Solidarity and social justice having been a guiding principle of Moreno’s political life. “Solidarity – not as charity, but rather as recognition of others as equals – is the basic pillar for initiating social inclusion,” he wrote in 2012.
In 2012, Moreno was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in bringing Ecuador’s disabled population out of the shadows. From 2013-2017 he served as the U.N. special envoy on disability and accessibility rights before returning to politics to campaign for president.
Selena Flores, who’s had paraplegia for 27 years as a result of a traffic accident, received her first wheelchair as a result of one of Moreno’s recent programs. “He’s helped bring us out of our isolation,” she told the Miami Herald. “We’re no longer the shame of our families. We’re not just a statistic.”