Ecuador Guillermo Lasso
Ecuador's right-wing presidential candidate, banker Guillermo Lasso (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Corrupt firm funded by right-wing candidate will produce Ecuador election exit polls

Ecuador’s top TV network will broadcast exit polls of the February 7 presidential election by notoriously corrupt polling firm CEDATOS, which was funded by the main right-wing candidate.

GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR – On the eve of the presidential election in Ecuador on February 7, observers are warning of a series of anti-democratic actions targeting the country’s left-wing Citizens’ Revolution movement.

Ecuador’s most-watched TV network is relying on a notoriously corrupt and politicized polling firm called CEDATOS, which works closely with right-wing politicians, has been funded by the main conservative candidate, and was even charged with publishing false documents. CEDATOS has been selected to conduct the official exit poll for the national elections.

Exit polls have a decisive impact on public perception of elections, and can sway popular opinion by giving the false impression that a candidate won, when in fact that candidate’s lead was based on projections, not official results.

If the exit polls prove inaccurate, which is likely given long record of faulty projections by CEDATOS, another scenario like the aftermath of the October 2019 election in Bolivia, which led to a US-backed military coup, is entirely possible.

Ecuador’s current President Lenín Moreno maintains just 8 percent of the public’s support and 91 percent disapproval inside the country. Leaked documents like the INA Papers have shown that the leader, an important regional ally of Washington, is knee-deep in corruption, having siphoned millions of dollars of public money into offshore bank accounts.

Moreno’s administration has aggressively persecuted the leftist Citizens’ Revolution movement founded by former President Rafael Correa, exiling and imprisoning dozens of pro-Correa political leaders, known as Correístas.

In another anti-democratic crackdown, the Moreno government blocked Correa from being a vice-presidential candidate, and even banned the the political party of Correista presidential candidate Andrés Arauz, forcing the leftist to instead use another little-known party in the election.

Despite the aggressive state persecution and anti-democratic tactics targeting the Correísta movement, almost every poll shows that its candidate Arauz will win the first round of the presidential election by a large margin.

There is just one polling firm that consistently claims otherwise: CEDATOS. And Ecuador’s leading TV network Ecuavisa is relying on this infamously biased and compromised firm to conduct the exit polls on the night of the February 7 election.

Ecuador presidential election polls firms
A comparison of results from various polling firms in Ecuador at the end of January 2021

A partisan, deeply politicized firm linked to neoliberal institutions

Ecuavisa is one of the oldest and most well-established news channels in the South American nation. Its editorial line is staunchly against the left-wing Correista movement, frequently demonizing former President Correa and his allies.

Ecuavisa’s citation of CEDATOS grants the firm credibility that directly contradicts its lengthy record of egregious inaccuracies.

In election after election, going back decades, CEDATOS has demonstrated a clearly politicized and unscientific pattern: consistently downplaying support for left-wing candidates like Correa while exaggerating support for right-wing candidates.

CEDATOS has links to the World Bank and the US government’s media arm Voice of America. The founder of the firm, Ángel Polibio Córdova, has previously worked with neoliberal governments in Ecuador and was a longtime advisor for Ecuador’s central bank, according to his publicly available LinkedIn profile.

It is widely known in Ecuador that this firm works with conservative political campaigns. CEDATOS is especially close to the main right-wing presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso, a banker who was involved in a disastrous financial crash in Ecuador in 1999.

Ironically, officials from Lenín Moreno’s own justice department exposed CEDATOS’ corruption and role in spreading false materials.

In 2018, Ecuador’s public prosecutor Cecilia Garzón charged Córdova with having published a fraudulent document at CEDATOS in order to benefit Guillermo Lasso’s 2017 presidential campaign.

The Ecuadorian prosecutor’s office obtained documents showing that Córdova was paid by a company called Libecosta S.A., which Lasso partially owns.

The prosecutor also discovered an email that the CEDATOS owner sent to Lasso, congratulating the banker on the new year, and telling him, “we believe in your victory and we will contribute in the best way possible to make that a reality.”

Unsurprisingly, given these suspicious ties, CEDATOS consistently puts Guillermo Lasso at the top of its polls.

For months, every other polling firm showed leftist candidate Andrés Arauz leading. CEDATOS was the only one that did not. It is always an outlier in the list of results.

In interviews on major right-wing Latin American media outlets, Ángel Córdova has repeatedly insisted Lasso will win the election, contradicting all other polls.

In January, the more reputable pollster Perfiles de Opinión put Arauz reported that Arauz had 43.22 percent support, with a massive lead over Lasso, at 25.54 percent.

poll perfiles de opinion Ecuador Arauz Lasso

But CEDATOS claimed soon after that Lasso was actually in the lead, with the support of 26 percent of Ecuadorians, while Arauz had just 24 percent. This is far from just a statistical error; it is a nearly 20 percent difference.

While some firms have showed Arauz winning in the first round with an over 10 percent margin, CEDATOS has consistently insisted that the election will go to a second round. Was this a projection, or wishful thinking?

A variety of credible polling firms exists Ecuador. CEDATOS is easily the most biased and least respected among them, with a documented record of unethical activities.

So why did Ecuador’s top broadcast outlet ignore all alternatives and select a firm accused of corruption by the country’s public prosecutor? The choice has introduced the potential for nationwide chaos in an election where the result seems clear-cut and fairly predictable. And perhaps that was the point.