Quito: Ecuador`s ruling party on Saturday named Lenin Moreno -- who uses a wheelchair and has been a champion of the rights of people with disabilities -- as its candidate to succeed President Rafael Correa.
Correa, an economist by training who has been president of the Andean nation since 2007 and is not seeking re-election next year, endorsed the charismatic ex-vice president.
"The citizen revolution must continue. And it is going to, we believe, with the best Ecuadoran to guide the next step of the political process, an incredible human being named Lenin Moreno Garces," Correa, 53, told thousands of supporters of the governing National Alliance.
"I accept," shot back a smiling Moreno, 63, a public administration graduate who is paralyzed and uses a wheelchair. He is known for his endlessly upbeat personality.
Moreno, a former envoy to the United Nations on the issue of handicapped persons and a 2012 Nobel peace prize candidate, is an early favorite in the 2017 election.
The economy of oil-producing Ecuador has been hard hit by lower crude prices.
But anyone elected president is likely to have to impose unpopular belt-tightening measures.
Hit by the falling oil prices, the appreciation of the dollar and the devaluation of currencies in neighboring Colombia and Peru, Correa`s government has faced a barrage of protests, including one in 2015 that saw thousands rally against a proposed inheritance tax increase that the president ultimately shelved.
When Ecuador`s Congress voted in 2015 to lift presidential term limits, protesters attacked police with spears, clubs and homemade rockets.
Many indigenous Ecuadorans are also angry over their lack of control over water resources, education and land.
Correa has been one of the pillars of Latin America`s leftist alliance grouping Ecuador with Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia.