The net is tightening around former Ecuador president Rafael Correa after a new order for his arrest, underscoring the country's determination to bring the once-popular leader to justice, along with his closest political allies.
On August 8, Judge Daniella Camacho announced a preventative detention order for Correa and requested that Interpol issue an arrest warrant, El País reported. Interpol has repeatedly rejected such requests in the past, citing a lack of evidence.
This time, Ecuador's Attorney General Diana Salazar has accused the former president of being behind a bribery scheme, which she described as a “well-structured criminal organization that received payments from government contractors,” according to a report by Ecuavisa.
The payments from the government contractors allegedly went to the presidential campaign of the Alianza PAIS political party, which led to Correa's and running mate Jorge Glas' return to power in 2013.
Arrest warrants were also issued for a number of high-level officials in Correa's administration, including former Vice President Glas, who is already behind bars in connection to another corruption case. Former ministers Vinicio Alvarado, Walter Solís and María de los Ángeles Duarte also face charges.
SEE ALSO: Ecuador News and Profile
Around 20 individuals close to Correa’s government are being investigated for their role in a case known as Bribes 2012-2016, El Comercio reported.
The former president, who currently lives in Belgium, denies the accusations and calls them a political persecution campaign.
But this is not the first time that Correa has faced accusations of receiving illegal funds. His successor, President Lenín Moreno, opened an investigation in April 2018 to prove whether Correa had received campaign funding from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC).
In an interview with Caracol, Moreno also alluded to a potential agreement between Correa's government and dissident FARC elements to allow drug trafficking at the Colombia-Ecuador border.
"We can presume that there could have been some sort of agreement, tacit at best ... for the transportation of drugs through a section of the border," the president said.
Finally, Correa has been linked to the sweeping Odebrecht corruption scandal. The Brazilian construction firm allegedly paid $11.3 million to Correa and Glas' 2013 election campaign. While Correa denies this, the company routinely bribed officials for construction contracts throughout the region.
InSight Crime Analysis
There is little chance that Rafael Correa will be brought to justice by this new arrest warrant or any others under current conditions. He has legal residence in Belgium through his wife, a Belgian national, and Brussels has historically proved lenient in extradition cases. Furthermore, Belgium and Ecuador do not currently have an extradition treaty.
In 2018, Judge Daniella Camacho had already called for Correa’s arrest in connection to the kidnapping of a political opponent seven years earlier in Colombia. In response, Correa declared that he felt “brutally persecuted” and explained that he was looking to request political asylum from the Belgian government.
However, this new investigation shows that the Moreno administration will not stop scrutinizing Correa's time in office. While seeing Correa in an Ecuadorean court room is unlikely, Moreno is using this to go after other powerful elites in the country.
Yet Moreno's own administration is under scrutiny by the Attorney General's Office, which is currently pursuing at least 20 corruption investigations that involve senior political and economic figures linked to both Correa's and Moreno's governments, El Comercio reported.
The fear of retribution has clearly spread among Correa's former allies. His minister of pubic works, Walter Solís, is a fugitive from justice after being tied to misappropriation of public funds. Correa's old tourism minister, Vinicio Alvarado, fled to Venezuela after being investigated for illegal campaign financing.
One of the few to be convicted is Glas, who is spending six years in jail in relation to the Odebrecht scandal, as well as facing embezzlement allegations in another case.
In an interview with Argentina's Página 12, Correa defended himself, saying "they want me dead outside the country or a prisoner inside the country...they know we will win any elections if I am there."