BRUSSELS — The still-popular yet polarizing ex-president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa Delgado, is garnering the support of regional figures and mass movements throughout Latin America, as he defies an order that would see him detained in his current country of residence, Belgium, and incarcerated in the Andean nation.
On Tuesday, Ecuadorian judge Daniella Camacho controversially ordered that the three-term former head of state be jailed for the attempted abduction of former opposition lawmaker Fernando Balda, where he had fled following his sentencing to two years’ imprisonment in a slander case against Correa. Balda claims that Correa had orchestrated the attempted arrest, which was stymied by Colombian security forces after a few hours.
“Judge Daniella Camacho receives the prosecutor’s request and orders preventive prison for ex-president Rafael C. for his alleged participation in the crime of illicit association and kidnapping,” the Ecuadorian prosecutor’s office said on Twitter. “A request will be submitted to Interpol for his capture, with the aim of extraditing him.”
Correa, however, claims that he had nothing to do with the attempt and that it is just the latest effort to blacken his legacy and bolster the credentials of the right-wing administration of his chosen successor, President Lenin Moreno. The state prosecutor’s office, however, had requested that Correa be attached to court proceedings as the incident’s foremost “author.”
Watch | Former Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa rejects arrest warrant
Moreno was carried to victory by a slim majority in last year’s presidential elections, largely on the back of Correa’s decade-long legacy of social-welfare reforms and developmental policies. The former vice-president under Correa was a rather uncharismatic and unpopular figure as a presidential candidate but has skyrocketed in popularity among the upper-middle-class social strata who once opposed Correa’s ruling party, the PAIS Alliance.
In an interview with Associated Press Thursday, Correa commented:
The case is extremely political, very clearly. So a country like Belgium in these cases will not allow [anyone] to attack the rights of a person living here. I am quite confident that this warrant won’t be effective outside of Ecuador.”
He added that he “wanted to retire from politics at least during several years. I wanted a little bit of peace for-my family.” Citing his 3.44 million social media followers from a nation of 16 million, he added that he would of course now defend himself and return to political life – which, in actuality, he never left following his exit from the presidential seat of power.
The campaign to persecute Correa has led to the widespread use across the region of the English-language term “lawfare,” which is defined as the abuse of legal processes and their transformation into a weapon of war, distorting a country’s judicial system into a means toward stripping political opponents of the ruling regime of their democratically-earned legitimacy.
Regional governments support Correa as his popular base mocks Moreno
Bolivian President Evo Morales expressed his support for the former leader, conveying via Twitter his rejection of the:
preventive prison against brother @MashiRafael by Ecuador’s Attorney General’s Office. We denounce the politicization of Ecuadorian justice and the U.S. interference in the drive to imprison an innocent man. We are with you, brother Correa. We will triumph!”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro similarly stressed his solidarity with Correa, tweeting:
First [Former Argentine President] Cristina [Fernandez de Kirchner]. Then [former Brazilian president] Lula. Now Rafael Correa. Cease persecution against the real leaders of our America. The Bolivarian Revolution sympathizes with the people of Ecuador and @MashiRafael.”
President Moreno protested the comments of Ecuador’s erstwhile close allies in a declaration that earned widespread mockery among Ecuadorians on social media, stating:
I have always been respectful of the institutions of the sister countries, especially Venezuela and Bolivia. I demand the same for Ecuador. Unlike in recent years, today there is freedom, respect and autonomy of justice and all functions of the State.”
The comments could signal a major break between Ecuador and the remaining countries of the so-called “Socialism of the 21st-Century” bloc of nations. Even as Ecuador has tilted rapidly toward a pro-U.S. orientation, it has remained conspicuously quiet about the internal situation in Venezuela, notwithstanding the fact that Washington and regional nations have applied pressure in hopes that Quito would explicitly condemn Caracas.
Watch | Argentine, Milagro Sala, Sends Her Solidarity to Rafael Correa
Former leaders Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner — the former presidents of Brazil and Argentina, respectively, who have also faced legal persecution following the end of their presidential terms — expressed their support.
In a signed letter mailed to Correa — presumably from prison — Lula noted:
I learned that you too … are a victim of the judicialization of politics, where some judges want to disqualify us as political leaders. They are taking from our people the right to decide on the fate of our countries. You have my solidarity, with the security that we will enjoy the final triumph of justice and that our peoples will democratically decide our countries’ futures and the future of Latin America.”
Gracias, compañero Lula.
No podrán contra nuestras montañas de dignidad, verdad y justicia. pic.twitter.com/AlWXWp9oLJ
— Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) July 4, 2018
While Fernandez tweeted on Thursday:
In Latin America, a plan is being executed to persecute and outlaw popular leaders. To the international scandal of the @LulaOficial prison, the arrest warrant is now added to @MashiRafael. Without Rule of Law, democracy at risk. #Lawfare”
On the Facebook profile of the Ecuadorian president, hundreds of comments posted on Wednesday night blasting Moreno as a “traitor,” “judas,” “miserable bootlicker of U.S. imperialism,” and Alvaro Uribe-style “fascist” — among the least obscenity-laced comments — who is sacrificing the country’s sovereignty to the “anti-Latino Fuhrer Donald Trump” and “Free Trade Agreement slavery,” had been deleted, with only the most flattering comments still remaining.
On Thursday, a lone critical comment still remained, asking if last week’s visit to Quito by the U.S. vice president sparked the diplomatic dispute:
I wonder if Mike Pence told him to back away from them if he wants Trump’s money.”
“Lawfare” meant to kill – literally or figuratively – the grand figure of Correa
Correa’s attorney, Caupolican Ochoa, blasted the decision to jail Correa as the predictable result of Moreno’s gaming of the judiciary, telling journalists:
This decision is arbitrary, it is a lie, it is defamatory. I do not believe they are seeking justice but rather revenge.”
In an interview with RT, Correa excoriated the allegations as “tremendously ridiculous” and dismissed the process as an example of “lawfare:”
“They can’t defeat us in elections, so they try to defeat us using the judicial system. We have to stop that because this is not democracy,” Correa said. Correa’s ally and Moreno’s elected vice-presidential running-mate, Jorge Glas, is currently in prison on corruption charges that have been criticized as illegitimate.
Watch | ‘This is a show’: Warrant issued for ex-president Rafael Correa for kidnapping
In media appearances over the week, the former president has maintained his sense of cool along with his trademark animated style of speech.
He told RT that the Ecuadorian government “may invent whatever they want because they control everything – media, judicial system, the National Assembly [Ecuadorian parliament], etc. to pursue left leaders.”
Correa, who has been stripped of the protection of Ecuadorian security agencies, further believes that, in addition to being prevented from returning to the country to remain involved in politics, he is also a potential target of assassination in the country of the many right-wing enemies he made while in power — noting “they also want me dead.”
Top Photo | Supporters of former President Rafael Correa participate in a rally in his favor after a judge ordered him jailed for failing to appear in court as required as part of a kidnapping probe, in Quito, Ecuador, July 5, 2018. Dolores Ochoa | AP
Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.
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