By SAMUEL PETREQUIN, Associated Press
BRUSSELS (AP) — Former Ecuador President Rafael Correa on Thursday dismissed as “nonsense” allegations that he is plotting with Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro to destabilize the current Ecuador government amid violent unrest sparked by fuel price hikes.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Correa called for a new election to solve the crisis. He has been accused by his successor, Lenin Moreno, of trying to foment a coup with the help of Maduro.
“It’s ridiculous,” Correa said.
Protests in the South American nation of 17 million started last week after Moreno ended fuel subsidies, leading to price increases. The government said at least 700 people have been arrested, and Moreno has moved government operations from the capital Quito to the city of Guayaquil.
Asked about his relation with Maduro, Correa —who settled in Belgium after he left office in 2017— said they enjoy a friendly relationship, adding that he also acts as an economic adviser to Venezuela.
“Because the economic situation of Venezuela, everybody knows is really serious,” he said. “But because of the embargo, the economic sanctions, they are not economic sanctions. They are economic aggression, okay? But this is crazy, Moreno says whatever he wants, but this is irrational.”
Correa, who served as president from 2007-17, faces an arrest warrant issued last year in Ecuador for alleged corruption. Describing himself as a victim of “political persecution,” he said he has been charged with a total of 29 offenses.
Though he fears he will be jailed if he returns to his home country, Correa said he could come back if Moreno calls new elections. Moreno has said he will not step down.
“Not that I have a role myself, but the solution is very clear,” he said. “We have an article 130 and article 138, allowing the national assembly or the president himself, to call for anticipated elections for the case of very strong political crisis or social unrest, exactly the situation we have right now.”