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  • Argentine soccer superstar Diego Maradona

    Argentine soccer superstar Diego Maradona | Photo: Reuters

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"He (Lenin Moreno) is trying to be the president of an Ecuador that doesn’t want to follow the path of Argentina,” Maradona said.

Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona encouraged Ecuadorean voters Wednesday to support leftist presidential candidate Lenin Moreno, warning that right-wing candidate Guillermo Lasso could degenerate Ecuador into a neoliberal mess, like his own Argentina under Mauricio Macri.

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Maradona released the message in a Twitter video ahead of the country’s April 2 runoff election. “I want to send a warm greeting to Ecuadoreans, to my friend (President Rafael) Correa and of course Lenin Moreno. He is trying to be the president of an Ecuador that doesn’t want to follow the path of Argentina,” he said.

“I tell my Ecuadorean friends: Lenin Moreno is the great chance we have. If you think otherwise, look at television and look at the strikes and marches in Argentina and Brazil where it seemed like they couldn’t fall.”

In 2015, Argentine voters elected right-wing Mauricio Macri as president, ushering in a period of neoliberal austerity that rolled back progressive gains made by former President Cristina Fernandez and Nestor Kirchner. Macri, campaigning against “big government,” has since implemented policies aimed at cutting and privatizing social programs, much like what Lasso is proposing.

Brazil experienced a similar fate. In 2016, in what many called a parliamentary coup, President Dilma Rousseff was impeached, making way for Michel Temer to take power, who immediately implemented neoliberal austerity. Temer has reversed dozens of policies implemented by Rousseff that benefitted women, workers and Black and Indigenous communities.

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Last month, the soccer superstar called for “unified resistance” to Macri's neoliberal administration. “All of us united together, we will return to what we once had — that is the slogan we have to have,” Maradona said in a public video released Feb. 25. “We can’t let him divide us further.”

The sports legend also praised Argentine bank worker and labor leader Sergio Palazzo for his union’s recent wage hike win. The union, La Bancaria, reached a deal with the four major banking corporations, granting workers a retroactive 24-percent salary increase and a one-time bonus payment in November 2017.

For decades, Maradona has been an outspoken critic of right-wing governments in Latin America.

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