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Ecuador Names Diego Martinez as New Central Bank President

Diego Martinez, a 34-year-old economist, will head Ecuador’s central bank after President Rafael Correa pressured his cousin Pedro Delgado to leave the post following his admission he faked his university degree.

Martinez, Correa’s sixth central bank president since he took office in 2007, will replace Economic Policy Minister Jeannette Sanchez, who held the post on an interim basis since Delgado resigned in December, according to a statement on the Presidency’s website today. Martinez was previously the sub-secretary of the country’s education secretariat and also worked as an official at the planning and development secretariat.

Correa’s appointment of Martinez, who’s allied with the ideological left of the administration, signals the government may toughen its policy of state intervention in the economy, said Vicente Albornoz, dean of the Universidad de las Americas business school in Quito. The central bank’s authority to set maximum rates means Martinez will be able to influence how much interest lenders charge clients, he said.

“Correa continues to surround himself with people who are dogmatically left-wing,” Albornoz said today in a telephone interview from Quito. “It’s a reaffirmation of the state model.”

Because Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency, much of its monetary policy depends on that of the U.S. Federal Reserve. The country’s central bank was also stripped of its autonomy in a 2008 constitutional referendum, leaving Martinez with few tools as the head of an agency Correa has called irrelevant.

Correa’s Movement

In his inaugural address today in Quito, Martinez said he was proud to be part of Correa’s political movement and criticized the country’s past reliance on foreign capital markets to finance economic growth.

“The central bank is an entity that carries out the economic policies set by the government,” Martinez said. “It will strongly target redistribution and stable growth with an active role of the state, with a stronger public banking system oriented toward the country’s development.”

Martinez steps into the post one month before national elections in which Correa is the favorite to win another four-year term. The economy is forecast to expand 4 percent this year while inflation, already at its slowest pace in two years, is projected to ease to 3.82 percent in 2013, according to the Finance Ministry.

Ecuador’s government is currently working with U.S. authorities to force former bank chief Delgado to return from Miami, where he’s been since fleeing Ecuador in December. Delgado is wanted for questioning over alleged dereliction of duty after admitting he never graduated from university and used a fake degree for more than two decades while occupying public positions requiring a college diploma.

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