BRUSSELS – Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa rejected on Wednesday accusations of trying to stage a coup in the protest-racked South American country and called on successor Lenin Moreno to call fresh elections.
Correa, a democratic socialist who was in office from 2007 to 2017, made his remarks to reporters at the European Parliament in Brussels.
“If I need to be a candidate, I will. They quote-unquote disqualified me from being president ... it was all illegal. It was all unconstitutional. But from vice president on down I don’t have a problem with participating,” he said at the news conference, having been invited by Spain’s United Left party.
He said the administration headed by Moreno – who was Correa’s vice president and hand-picked successor but made a sharp turn to the right after taking office – will “invent anything to stop me from running” because “they know we’ll defeat them.”
The former president, who currently lives in his wife’s native Belgium, said he has faced a series of fabricated lawsuits since Moreno took office that are aimed at preventing him from returning to politics in the Andean nation.
He added that if he returns to his homeland he will find himself behind bars.
“Let them put me in prison, but let me run in the campaign. No, they will put me in prison first and then not let me run,” he said.
The 56-year-old Correa denied accusations that he is behind recent huge indigenous marches and protests in Ecuador against the government’s scrapping of fuel subsidies and other austerity measures.
Moreno has been implementing those budget-cutting measures under a $4.2 billion financing deal agreed in March with the International Monetary Fund.
Correa also denied allegations that he had traveled to Venezuela to orchestrate the protests along with that nation’s leftist incumbent, Nicolas Maduro.
“They say that right now I’m in Venezuela ... Look at the detailed reports (saying) I met yesterday with Maduro, and that he’s the one financing the destabilization. This is madness. It’s demented,” the ex-president said.
“They’re the coup perpetrators,” Correa said, adding that “what we’re calling for is a solution provided by the constitution, a democratic solution.”
He recalled that last year’s no-confidence vote that led to the ouster of Spain’s then-Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy did not prompt accusations of a coup.
After Socialist Pedro Sanchez became the new premier, “it didn’t occur to anyone that democracy had been broken. What happened in Spain is part of democracy and part of the rule of law,” Correa said.
Likewise, when Sanchez called early elections in February of this year, “it didn’t occur to anyone that there’s instability. They’re resolving conflicts within a constitutional and democratic framework,” he added.
Ecuador has similar mechanisms that allow for early elections in the case of serious social upheaval and thereby enable conflicts to be resolved peacefully and democratically, Correa said.
“Let people vote at the polling stations. That’s how conflicts should be resolved in a democracy,” the ex-president said. “They don’t want to do it because they know the reaction will be even more forceful than what they’re receiving in the streets,” he said.
Regarding the protests by public-transport operators and other demonstrators, Correa urged people to “continue to firmly defend their rights, but in a peaceful manner. Because (government security forces) are looking for any excuse” to repress the demonstrations.
Although he denounced “brutal repression” in Ecuador and said the violent quelling of demonstrations had already led to deaths, he said protesters must not allow themselves to be intimidated into staying home.
Asked about offers by the United Nations and the Catholic Church to act as mediators in the crisis, Correa said he did not trust the would-be intermediaries due to their close ties to Moreno’s government.
With respect to the European Union, Correa said it is regrettable that the Ecuadorian crisis is “not even on its agenda” and that the EU’s interest in Latin America does not go beyond Venezuela.
Correa said a double-standard is at work because in the case of Ecuador “there’s a right-wing government that is persecuting progressive leaders.”