President of Ecuador Lenín Moreno spoke about his country’s politics and the fight to end corruption at the Harvard Kennedy School’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on Friday.
Moreno was joined by his wife, Rocio Gonzalez Navas; Jacqueline Brigida Astudillo, the Ecuadorian ambassador to the United States; and a delegation from Ecuador. It was Moreno’s first visit to Harvard since he was elected president of Ecuador in 2017.
“It is the first time that I came to Boston and this prestigious university,” Moreno said in his speech, which he gave in Spanish. “Ecuador is a small country, but it is enriched by its culture.”
The faculty director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Brian D. Farrell introduced Moreno as one of the world's leading advoates for rights for disabled individuals. Moreno was shot in 1998 and has used a wheelchair ever since. He is the world’s only currently serving head of state who uses a wheelchair.
In 2012, Moreno was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy on behalf of the disabled.
“President Moreno’s passion is the advocacy of the awareness and rights of disabled people, where he is a recognized global eminence,” Farrell said.
Moreno spoke about corruption in Latin America — an issue that has recently focused an international spotlight on Ecuador.
In July, it was reported that an Ecuadorian judge had released an arrest warrant for former President Rafael Correa for helping kidnap one of his political opponents. Moreno served as Correa’s vice president from 2007 to 2013.
Moreno warned that even leaders with “good hearts” can fail to resist the pull of absolute power.
“The moment that you feel absolute power, you fall in love with it completely, and you cannot stop it. This is why corruption is still around,” Moreno said to the large crowd of Harvard affiliates and visitors.
Since his election, Moreno has distanced himself from former president Correa, introducing policies meant to protect freedom of expression in Ecuador and allowing private banks to work independently of the central bank in certain cases.
“We must hear the opinions of the other side to advance our country,” Moreno said.
Andres G. Sierra, a Masters in Public Administration student at the Kennedy School who attended the speech, said it is important to hear from presidents like Moreno who came from “developing countries.”
“The fact that President Moreno came to Harvard is a very important opportunity to open parts of cooperation between the government of Ecuador and Harvard,” Sierra said.
“It is always hard to have a president here in the Forum, especially when he comes from a developing country — from a country where not many young people have studied at Harvard. So, it’s an amazing opportunity,” Sierra added.
Moreno’s visit to the Forum comes a day after President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama spoke at the Forum and visited with University President Lawrence S. Bacow.