BRUSSELS — Three months after an Ecuadorian court requested that Interpol issue a “red alert” to detain, imprison, and extradite former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, the former head of state remains free and has continued to wage his legal defense against charges emanating from officials in the government of President Lenin Moreno.
According to Correa’s legal team, this will remain the case after Interpol suspended the Andean nation’s extradition request in an “exceptional” manner, having considered the merits of his defense argument, which maintains that the prosecution of Correa on charges of conspiracy and kidnapping are of a politicized nature.
In July, Ecuadorian Attorney General Paul Perez issued an international request that Correa, 55, be placed in preventive detention and extradited for not appearing at the Ecuadorian Prosecutor’s Office to face a trial related to his alleged role in the attempted abduction of former opposition legislator Fernando Balda. The ex-deputy, Balda, had escaped to neighboring Colombia in 2012 following his conviction for slander against the Ecuadorian head of state.
Correa, who lives in his wife’s home country of Belgium, has denied the charge and sees the process as a “farce” and as “lawfare” — or the politicization of the judiciary and a continuation of President Moreno’s campaign to tarnish his image and prevent him from remaining involved in his country’s political future.
Earlier this week, the economist’s legal defense team indicated that Interpol rejected the “red alert” after examining a dossier sent by Correa’s defense to the organization’s headquarters in France.
“The previous rulers are being prosecuted as a means to remove them from the political arena,” attorney Christophe Marchand told reporters.
It remains yet to be seen whether the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files will allow Ecuador’s lawsuit against Correa to continue on an international level.
However, pretrial hearings for the case are due to continue in Ecuador on Friday following delays earlier this week, when the prosecution’s case materials were found to be unfit for presentation to the court owing to technical errors.
The former president’s legal-defense team has expressed suspicion about the delay and incredulity over the shambolic nature of the legal proceedings, while speculating about whether the scrutiny of international observers caused an intentional delay of the court date.
“The hearing continues Friday afternoon and the international observers leave Friday morning. I think it is clear what we are facing, worse still with the shameful behavior of the general attorney,” Correa noted on Twitter.
If the charges against Correa are sustained by Attorney General Perez, Correa could face a jail sentence of up to nine years.
Antonio Ingroia — Italian journalist, former judge and lawyer on Correa’s defense team — told Sputnik Mundo that the lack of evidence in the case shows the fraudulent and “surreal” nature of the arrest warrant against Correa and his tenuous connection to the Balda abduction, which Ingroia sees as “literally invented and lacking the slightest evidence.”
“This trial is a very strange, absurd and unjust case, because they want to prosecute a former president of the Republic without proof or guarantees while the positions of the prosecution remain inadequate,” the lawyer stressed, adding, “This isn’t a local issue, it’s a battle for truth, justice and democracy in the world and one in which we can’t remain indifferent.”
The “betrayal” continues
Since coming to power last May, President Lenin Moreno – a handpicked successor of Correa – has fought to remove any trace of Correa’s influence from the ruling party the charismatic leftist once led.
Moreno’s ascent to the presidency was largely due to the continued popularity of his predecessor’s decade-long legacy of social development programs meant to end the “banana republic” nature of Ecuador’s political culture and economy.
However, since splitting with his former mentor, Moreno has embraced former opposition leaders; deposed and jailed his own vice president and Correa ally, Jorge Glas; replaced a moderate distrust for Washington and an independent foreign policy with all-out reintegration into the pro-United States fold; and torn apart the left-leaning PAIS Alliance party, which has ruled the country since Correa was voted into office in 2006.
In February, Ecuadorians backed a controversial referendum, supported to the hilt by state resources, that reimposed presidential term limits, potentially barring Correa from ever returning to political power on a national level.
Moreno has also stripped Correa of any right to enjoy the protection of Ecuadorian state security forces, a privilege typically granted to former heads of state in the South American country. Correa sees such measures as indicative of Quito’s desire to see him either killed or imprisoned.
“Betrayal can only happen between friends,” the former leader told Jornal do Brasil Sunday in reference to his former vice president, adding:
In the past, Moreno said that my government was the best in the world, that I was the best president of all, but now I am a thief, authoritarian, murderer, kidnapper, repressor, corrupt. It’s complete hypocrisy.”
The regional trend of lawfare continues unabated
The campaign to persecute Correa has led to the widespread use of the word lawfare in media outlets across Latin America in relation to the continent’s right wing using legal processes for the sake of stripping political opponents of their legitimacy and popular support through exaggerated or false accusations of corruption, dirty dealing, and graft.
Correa and other critics have also pointed to the ongoing persecution of former Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Brazil’s Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva as proof of an attempt by the United States and regional right-wing elites to exact revenge on the wave of leaders and popular movements that came to power in the 2000s as part of a trend dubbed “socialism of the 21st-century.”
Ecuadorian deputy to the Andean Parliament Pamela Aguirre told NODAL news in an interview Friday that the Ecuadorian state has been rendered nearly non-functional, as the Moreno government – with the support of large corporations and media consortiums – has unilaterally manipulated, dissolved, or dismissed most government bodies in its attempt to root out the legacy of the Correa administration.
“In the face of such a situation, our democratic system hangs in the balance,” she noted, adding:
In Ecuador, the ‘anti-corruption’ discourse has been used to make way for a process of judicial persecution against any actors who are opposed to the Moreno regime. It is extremely necessary to promote this fight against corruption, but what can’t happen is that the government takes advantage of this resource to block democratic methods used by the opposition.”
Feature 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.