Moreno and Lasso: Ecuador election contenders

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Ecuadorean presidential candidate for the Alianza Pais party, Lenin Moreno, speaks during an interview with AFP in Manta, Ecuador on March 29, 2017

A champion of social welfare and author of self-help books faces off against a conservative ex-banker promising a change of direction for Ecuador in its runoff presidential election on Sunday.

Here are brief profiles of ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno and his rival Guillermo Lasso, who is aiming to end a decade of socialist rule in the South American country.

- Lenin Moreno -

Moreno, 64, is seen as a moderate successor to carry on the socialist agenda of Ecuador's President Rafael Correa.

He would be the first wheelchair-user to become Ecuador's leader, and one of few such leaders in the world ever to serve as president.

His legs have been paralyzed since he was shot during a robbery in 1998.

He went on to lead a task force on disability rights as vice-president in Correa's government. That earned him a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

He also published a series of books about how humor helped him overcome his adversity.

"Humor is good for the health," he once said. "That's why doctors don't prescribe it."

Where Correa is stern and combative, notably with regard to the United States, Moreno is more quietly spoken, known for cracking jokes in his campaign speeches.

He says he prefers "the style of dialogue, of reaching out."

Correa himself has described Moreno as "affable and conciliatory."

Moreno's campaign policies include action against child malnutrition and domestic violence.

He has pledged to boost business through loans and try to spur consumption.

During campaigning, Moreno skirted around allegations linking allies of Correa to corruption scandals.

Moreno of the Country Alliance party won 39 percent of the vote in the first round.

- Guillermo Lasso -

Moreno's rival Guillermo Lasso was second in last month's first round with 28 percent of the vote at the head of his Creating Opportunities party.

A former economy minister and provincial governor, Lasso, 61, is making his second bid for the presidency after losing to Correa in 2013.

He presents himself as the candidate of change as the economy flags and Correa's allies face allegations of corruption.

Correa has scored points against Lasso by blaming him in part for a banking crisis in 1999, when he was economy minister. Lasso has denied any wrongdoing.

The crisis caused bank deposits to be frozen and led to Ecuador adopting the dollar as its currency.

A married father of five, Lasso was one of 11 children from a middle-class family in the southwest.

He started working at 15 and rose to become president of the Bank of Guayaquil, his home city, despite never finishing his economics degree.

He turned full-time to politics in 2012.

He has promised to boost foreign investment in Ecuador, cut taxes and create a million jobs.

"What I want is not to hold the office of president but to do the work of president," he said while campaigning.

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