It took three rounds of voting, but Ecuador now has a new Vice President, María Alejandra Muñoz Seminario.
On Friday night, July 17, 2020, Ecuador’s Plenary of the National Assembly held a virtual vote to fill the position of Vice President that was vacated when Otto Sonnenholzner resigned two weeks ago, likely to put his name in the hat for Ecuador’s upcoming Presidential election (Ecuador law requires any government official who seeks the Presidency to resign his/her position prior to beginning a campaign for the office).
Sonnenholzner’s resignation put into motion the process where Ecuador’s President submits a “short list” of new Vice President candidates (listed in order of preference) to the National assembly, who then vote on the candidates with a requirement to achieve 70 affirmative votes.
After Moreno’s first choice for Vice President, María Paula Romo, current Minister of Government, only received 36 affirmative votes, the Assembly moved on to Moreno’s second choice, Juan Sebastián Roldán, current Secretary General of the Cabinet of the Presidency of the Republic. However, Roldán also fell short, receiving only 12 affirmative votes.
On its third vote, the National Assembly easily elected Muñoz, the current General Director of the National Customs Service (Senae), with 75 affirmative votes. Muñoz will fill the position for the remaining 10 months of Lenin Moreno’s term of President (Moreno has already stated that he will not seek reelection).
Muñoz will be the fourth vice-president of the current administration. Moreno’s first Vice President—who he was elected with—Jorge Glas,served from 2017-2018, before being convicted in the Odebrecht case and sentenced to prison. His second Vice President, María Alejandra Vicuña, served in 2018 before stepping down to face trial in the “Tithe case.” Otto Sonnenholzner, Moreno’s third Vice President served from 2018-2020, before deciding to step down for “political purpose.”
Who is María Alejandra Muñoz Seminario?
Ecuador’s new Vice President is a 41-year-old lawyer from Guayaquil with a Bachelor degree in Social and Political Sciences, issued by the Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo de Guayaquil, Ecuador, in 1998.
In 2001, she received the title of “Lawyer of the Courts of the Republic of Ecuador,” with specialization in Business and Tax Law, along with Cum Laude academic recognition. She also has a Master degree in Prevention of Violence against Women and Inclusion Policies,from the University of Salamanca, Spain.
Married, with four children (one who died of cancer at the age of 10 years old), Muñoz is not new to government service. She has served under three Ecuadorian Presidents over the last 18 years, first working as a legal advisor to President Gustavo Noboa in 2002.
From 2006 to 2007, she served as the General Under secretariat of Government and Police in the Alfredo Palacio administration.
Prior to assuming the role of Vice President, Muñoz served in the Moreno administration as Undersecretary of the Presidential Agenda from April to September 2018(appointed there by Juan Sebastián Roldán), at which time she assumed the role of General Director of the National Customs Service (Senae).
In between her time in government service, Muñoz was part of the Coronel y Pérez law firm.In private practice, she worked in the area of Regulatory Affairs, Compliance and Ethics, with an emphasis on the application of policies for the inclusion of women in the public and private spheres.
She was also the Chair of Administrative Law at the Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo from 2007 to 2009. Between 2014 and 2015 she also held an executive legal position in a multinational company.
When Muñoz took on her most recent position at Senae, only 27% of the members of the Steering Committee were made up of women. By July 2019, under Muñoz’s management, that number has risen to 80%
“Every time a woman is in a position to develop policies that allow working in society, she cannot forget where we come from, not being able to vote, not being able to study, being treated as inferior human beings,” she said at an event on Women’s Day.
Strong relations across the government
“I receive this democratic appointment to such high dignity, with appreciation and deep commitment to it. Thank you, President Lenín Moreno, for your trust, count on my work. My hug to my friends and companions of the short list. It has been a privilege to share this path with you,”Muñoz wrote on her Twitter account after accepting the new position.
Romo congratulated Muñoz on Twitter, posting a photo of the herself, Muñoz and Roldán together in an embrace.
Although she is not a member of the Ruptura de los 25 movement, founded by her peers, she maintains a close relationship with them, says Patricio Alarcón, President of the Quito Chamber of Commerce (CCQ), who mentions that Muñoz does not have a profile political.
“She is very close to the people of Ruptura and to the Minister of Finance (Richard Martínez), she is not declared of that group, but she is from the same circle,” he indicated.