Feisty ex-Ecuador leader returns to battle 'traitors'

Guayaquil (Ecuador) (AFP) –


Ecuador's ex-president Rafael Correa, one of the feistiest characters in Latin American politics, returned home from Belgium on Saturday vowing to save his party from "traitors."

Correa is in a battle with his successor and former ally Lenin Moreno for control of their Country Alliance party.

"We will not allow traitors to take Country Alliance," Correa told reporters after arriving in the southwestern city of Guayaquil, where he was greeted by crowds of cheering supporters, but also detractors.

Correa will attend the party convention on December 3 in the northwestern city of Esmeraldas.

The ex-president wants "professional imposter" Moreno ousted from the party, accusing him of governing with the opposition and breaking with the party's leftist program.

"We believe that we are going to win that convention and we are going to maintain Country Alliance," said Correa, who served as president for a decade until stepping aside in May.

He retired in Belgium, his wife's country, but could not leave Ecuadorian politics behind.

In a September interview with AFP, he spoke of his displeasure with the country's path under Moreno, and talked of a possible return in defense of "the revolution."

Ecuador had been dubbed ungovernable when Correa came to office in 2007 after seven different presidents over the preceding decade.

He launched vigorous reforms, boosted social spending, curbed oil firms' profits and suspended some debt payments that he considered illegitimate.

Correa's welfare spending, social equality policies and subsidies, which he says reduced poverty to below 23 percent, won the hearts of many.

Unlike his allies in Argentina, Brazil and Peru, his side managed to stay in office and win re-election.

Moreno was a quieter successor to Correa, and economists warned that he faced tougher conditions.

Like other Latin American countries, Ecuador has suffered from falling prices for its oil and minerals.

This led to strains in the Country Alliance over how to deal with the downturn while maintaining subsidies for the poor.

Fractures in the ruling party were already evident in August when Moreno stripped Vice President Jorge Glas -- a Correa ally -- of his functions after Glas issued a long list of criticisms of the president.

The opposition has leveled corruption allegations against Glas, and for them, it is Correa who is the "traitor," not Moreno.