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Ecuador ex-president dismisses arrest bid as government 'plot'


Brussels (AFP)

Former Ecuador president Rafael Correa said Wednesday that an arrest warrant issued by a court in his homeland over the kidnapping of an opponent was part of a "plot" by the government against him.

"There is a whole roadmap, there is a whole plot," Correa told AFP in an interview in Brussels where he is now based, adding that current Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno "is behind this".

Ecuador's National Court of Justice on Tuesday said it had ordered the arrest of Correa over alleged links to the kidnapping of former lawmaker Fernando Balda in Colombia in 2012, and had alerted Interpol.

Correa, president of Ecuador from 2007-2017, was one of the feistiest characters in Latin American politics. He now lives in his wife's native Belgium.

He said he doubted Interpol, the international police organisation, or Belgium would accept the arrest warrant.

"Interpol takes its time, analyses the case and, if it is political, rejects it. We have the deep conviction that it is going to throw this away, because there is nothing more political than that," said Correa.

"But supposing it passes the red alert, the Belgian authorities will never process such nonsense."

Correa questioned the motivation for the case, after he and Moreno, his former ally, struggled for control of their deeply divided leftist ruling Country Alliance party.

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

- 'Almost suicide' -

Asked who was behind the plot he described, Correa said: "Without a doubt the government. The government announced it in November, met Balda in secret on April 20... with his lawyers as well."

On Moreno, his former ally, Correa added: "He is behind this. But that's obvious. He's pushing it. I insist, he met with Balda... He is behind all this, the judicialisation of politics."

"They link me to a case without any evidence, based on the testimony of a policeman who spent seven hours the day before with the prosecutor learning his lesson, saying that the president has called him to ask him to kidnap Balda," Correa added.

In February, Ecuadorans 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 leftist legacy, making overtures to the business community and the political right

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 Ecuadoran 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.

Correa said he and his lawyers "haven't ruled out" the possibility of applying for political asylum in Belgium.

But he ruled out returning to Ecuador under his own steam.

"This would be almost suicide in the current conditions, but if I were single I would do it," he said, but then adding: "Why do I have to sacrifice my family again?"

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