Jaime Nebot, Mayor of Guayaquil, Ecuador

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Jaime Nebot, Mayor of Guayaquil, Ecuador
A mayor who does not
wish for the presidency

By Andrew Stevens, Deputy Editor

1 May 2009: Born in Guayaquil in 1946, Jaime José Nebot Saadi attended the city's Catholic University, where he studied political science. Guayaquil's mayor belongs to the centre-right Social Christian Party (PSC) founded during the 1950s by future presidents Camilo Ponce Enríquez and Sixto Durán Ballén, following the first term of populist José Maríá Velasco (who made the infamous remark "Give me a balcony and I will become president"). While Nebot is effectively de facto leader of the party, he has stated that his first priority is to the mayoralty and not to lead the party or seek the presidency. The Mayor has been nominated for the 2008 World Mayor Award.

Nebot began his political career as Governor of the Guayas Province in which the city sits, elected for the 1984-1988 term. Nebot then served as a deputy to the national congress between 1990 and 1992 before his first attempt at the Ecuadorian presidency for the PSC in 1992, though he proceeded to the run-off in his 1996 run (where he won the first round). His second congressional stint was in the 1998-2000 congressional term of disgraced president Christian Democrat Jamil Mahuad, who was deposed by a military coup. On both occasions he served as leader of both the congressional party and the national party.

He was first elected mayor of the Ecuadorian metropolis in 2000, re-elected in 2004 and 2009. While inland Quito is the national seat of government, the port of Guayaquil ("the pearl of the pacific") acts as Ecuador's largest urban centre and economic hub. Nebot's signature policies as mayor have been to improve both the city's physical appearance and its economy. This has seen the redevelopment of the city's centre through the erection of glass skyscrapers and the enhancement of tourist districts, as well as the construction of a new airport and the Metrovía rapid transit system, all of which have earned him an international reputation as an urban innovator.

In 2005 Nebot led a march against the country's president Lucio Gutiérrez, a nominal left-winger initially allied to the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez but who dropped the left for the right and was later forced out of the country. It has been alleged that Nebot's gripe against the Gutiérrez was to demand more autonomy for Guayaquil from the central government in Quito, amid demands for outright independence for the region from the crowd on the march. Nebot was very much viewed as positioning himself for the presidency during this time. While Gutiérrez fled the country to Brazil following his ouster, he was able to reach a deal with the PSC to avoid permanent exile.

Nebot often finds himself at odds with the country's president, though some argue that it is President Rafael Correa, a leftist economist, who has picked the fight. While Correa dismisses Nebot as a relic of the corrupt old regime, Nebot and his supporters claim the president's desire to reform the country's constitution was aimed at making him a 'Chavez-style' dictator. The spat, which led to protests in the city, mirrors those in Bolivia and Venezuela, as the centre wished to reform the constitution against the wishes of some regions. Some observers point to the PSC's flagging fortunes and suggest that Correa's combative approach has made Nebot stronger than would have been the case.

Jaime Nebot was the recipient of the 2007 Sustainable Transport Award organised by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, the United Nations Centre for Regional Development, among others. He is married with three children.

World Mayor 2023