Former President Correa is said to have used bribery on a large scale to fund his party. If the verdict is upheld, he can bury his plans for a comeback.
eight years in prison on Tuesday for running a bribe ring. In addition, according to the judgment, he is no longer allowed to hold public office for 25 years. Along with Correa, 19 other people were convicted by his former government and private sector. Until now, it was generally assumed in Ecuador that Correa would run again for the presidency in 2021. He had to resign after ten years in 2017 because the constitution did not allow for an immediate term of office. Alongside Venezuelan Hugo Chávez and Bolivian Evo Morales, Correa was one of the three exponents of the so-called socialism of the 21st century in South America.
Bribery for the party box office
Specifically, Correa and the co-accused are accused of operating a bribe ring between 2012 and 2016, comparable to the Brazilian Operation Lava Jato, albeit with significantly lower amounts. Government contracts, especially in the construction sector, were awarded at inflated prices. In return, the private entrepreneurs paid bribes to the cash register of Correa’s Alianza País party alliance. A total of $ 7 million is said to have flowed to the ruling party. The damage to the Ecuadorian state is said to be $ 21 million. Correa vehemently denies his guilt.
Addressing the current government, he said, attempts were being made to manipulate the judiciary to achieve what it never did in the polls. The former president wants to appeal against the judgment and, if necessary, also call international authorities.
Power struggle with President Moreno
The process took place in the climate of a power struggle between Correa and the current president of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno. The latter was the long-time vice president of Correa, but the two have been at odds since the paraplegic Moreno took office. The politician soon showed that he was not ready to dance to his predecessor’s pipe. Moreno left Correa’s socialist course, opened the political system and approached the private sector. Correa, who had hoped that Moreno was only a placeholder until his new term in office, fled to Belgium, his wife’s home, with violent criticism of Moreno. Protection against possible corruption lawsuits was probably a motive even then. But Moreno ultimately prevailed against Correa. In February 2018, he won a referendum that precludes Correa from being re-elected. Half a year later, the ruling party’s Congress ratified Moreno’s new political course.
To dismiss the verdict as revenge on the former president falls short. This is not least because the power struggle between Moreno and Correa was actually decided in 2018. The corruption case was revealed by the investigative portal “Mil Hojas”. The public prosecutor’s office then began to investigate in April 2019. The decisive factor was the cooperation between two suspects, a former counselor in the presidency and an assistant. The two provided lists of bribe payments, email communications, and other documents. They were given significantly reduced prison terms in comparison to the other defendants.
Delivery not yet an issue
Rafael Correa is unlikely to be behind bars soon. Since he wants to take advantage of all appeals, it should take some time before a final judgment is reached. In addition, he is currently in Belgium outside the access of the Ecuadorian judiciary. Extradition to Ecuador was not possible in another case in 2018, when Correa did not appear in court. Interpol then rejected an arrest warrant because it was “obviously politically motivated”. In any case, delivery is currently not an issue in Belgium. The case is reported, but not prominently. The Belgians generally struggle with deliveries.