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El Universo, May 24

Wheelchair-bound politician Lenín Moreno assumed Ecuador's highest office today, nearly 20 years after a shooting attack left him paralyzed.

"Lenín's big day," as the front page of Wednesday's El Universoreads, gives Ecuador its first new leader in a decade. Moreno, 64, replaces leftist Rafael Correa, whom he served from 2007 to 2013 as vice-president. Both represent the socialist Alianza PAIS coalition, which Correa founded 11 years ago.

Moreno — the world's only paraplegic head of state — won the presidency in a runoff last month against Guillermo Lasso, a wealthy businessman and political conservative. Lasso has refused to concede what he claims was a fraudulent election. International observers described the contest as being fair and transparent.

The big question now is whether Moreno, a former Nobel Peace Prize candidate, will try to distance himself from his powerful predecessor and political patron, who pushed through a number of deep structural reforms in Ecuador and has been accused, over the years, of making a number of authoritarian power plays.

The Colombian daily El Espectador, in an analysis piece published Wednesday, predicts that the new president will be more of a consensus builder. He may have to be given that Alianza PAIS saw its majority in the country's single-chamber legislature shrink by a considerable amount, from 100 of 137 seats to 74.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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