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Ecuador court orders arrest of former president Rafael Correa

Speaking from Brussels where he resides, former president says he has no plans to return to Ecuador, calling the demand he be extradited from Belgium and jailed a power ploy by the Ecuador government in an effort to stamp out opposition.

Today 01:26 PM
Rafael Correa, pictured during an interview with The Associated Press at his family home close to Brussels, Belgium.
Rafael Correa, pictured during an interview with The Associated Press at his family home close to Brussels, Belgium. Foto:AP

An Ecuadorean court has ordered the arrest of Brussels-based former president Rafael Correa over alleged links to the kidnapping of an opponent in Colombia.

The National Court of Justice said Judge Daniella Camacho "resolves to impose preventive detention" against Correa and has alerted Interpol.

Correa, president from 2007-2017,now lives in his wife's native Belgium, but is under investigation at home for involvement in the kidnapping of former lawmaker Fernando Balda in 2012.

The former president has questioned the motivation for the case, after he and his former ally, the current President Lenín Moreno, struggled for control of their deeply divided leftist ruling PAIS Alliance party. 

Balda considered himself a persecuted politician under Correa's government.

Last month, a judge ordered Correa to appear in court every two weeks to assist the investigation.

The first appearance was ordered for Monday, when Correa presented himself to the Ecuadorean consulate in Brussels to "comply with the precautionary measure imposed by the illegal and illegitimate link to the so-called Balda Case," he said on Twitter.

Three police intelligence agents have already been ordered arrested in the case, in addition to an ex-police commander and a former top intelligence official, who was detained last month in Spain.

Correa has said on Twitter that he had no knowledge of the crime. "I don't know what they are linking me with, or to whom," he said. "Maybe they can get some false testimony. But they'll never prove anything, because there is nothing."

In February Ecuadoreans voted to bar Correa from being able to make a comeback in 2021 by backing a referendum question on reimposing presidential term limits. The results were a win for Moreno in his struggle with Correa, who during his term launched vigorous reforms, boosted social spending, curbed oil firms' profits and suspended some debt payments that he considered illegitimate. Since his election last year, Moreno has steadily dismantled Correa's legacy, making overtures to the business community and the political right. 

Correa has suggested that he could seek asylum in Belgium, saying "they will seek to humiliate us and make us have a hard time, but such a monstrosity will NEVER prosper in a State of Law like Belgium."

INTERVIEW

Speaking to the Associated Press earlier today, Correa called Ecuador's demand for him to be jailed and extradited from Belgium just a power ploy by the government to stamp out opposition, adding that it will instead push him back to the forefront of politics.

In an interview from his family home close to Brussels, Correa said he had no plans to report to Ecuadorean authorities investigating his possible links with a botched, brief 2012 kidnapping of a lawmaker.

Correa said the case was politically motivated to put him in jail or keep him from coming back. "I cannot go back to Ecuador during the next eight to 10 years," if the case continues to run its course, he said.

He added that Ecuador was no longer a fully functioning democracy and insisted the government had full control over the judicial branch.

"There is no division of power. Everything is controlled by the government," he said. "There is no independent justice in Ecuador anymore."

Correa said he was first asked to present himself to the Belgian local embassy, but that the judge escalated this by demanding he present himself at home. He insisted he had no doubts that the Belgian authorities would allow him to stay in spite of any extradition request.

"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 said.

Still, it will change life as he knew it in Belgium.

"I wanted to retire from politics at least during several years. I wanted a little bit of peace to my family," he said.

Instead — showing his mobile phone with 3.44 million followers for a nation of 16 million as an indication of his continuing support — Correa said he felt he is now forced to defend himself and return to political life.

- TIMES/AFP/AP

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