Rafael Correa’s ‘Citizens’ Revolution’ lifted millions of Ecuadorians out of poverty but the former president now faces political persecution in the latest orchestrated attempt to criminalise Latin America’s left-wing leaders.

Whereas the official reason for Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno’s visit to London is to attend the inaugual Global Disability Summit, it comes amid reports that he plans to hand over Julian Assange to British authorities. The Wikileaks founder has, of course, spent six years in Ecuador’s embassy while resisting attempts to extradite him to the United States. If Assange feels betrayed, he will probably find an empathetic ear from Moreno’s predecessor Rafael Correa, who granted Assange asylum in the first place and who now faces similar politically-driven attempts to put him behind bars.

5 July marked the final breaking point between Moreno’s increasingly right-leaning government and the leftwing former president Correa. Plaza Santo Domingo, the historical centre of Quito, became the rallying point for nearly 60,000 supporters of the revolución ciudadana (Citizens’ Revolution) created by Correa after he took office in 2006.

The masses came together under the banner of Indignaté Ecuador (Be outraged, Ecuador!) to oppose the arrest warrant issued against Correa by Ecuador’s National Court of Justice in relation to the alleged attempted kidnapping of a former journalist and rightwing legislator, Fernando Balda.

Balda was previously charged with supporting the 2010 coup d’état attempt against the then-president. He was eventually extradited to Ecuador by the Colombian authorities in October 2012, and faced charges of conspiracy to overthrow Correa’s government. After also being accused of threatening members of state security, he was given a one-year prison sentence.

In May of this year, Judge Daniella Camacho of the Attorney General’s office requested an initiation of the proceedings against the former president, following the filing of the formal accusation by Balda against Correa. The National Assembly of Ecuador declared Camacho’s request inadmissible on 14 June, as it was ‘not for parliament to authorise the prosecution of an ex-president, as provided by the Constitution’. The case proceeded to Ecuador’s National Court. On 3 July, the Chief Prosecutor’s office requested preventative detention for Correa and proceeded to notify Interpol regarding his arrest, despite a complete lack of concrete evidence.

Rafael Correa, who has been residing in Belgium with his family since May 2017, has dismissed the charges as a ‘government plot’ by Moreno’s government and urged citizens ‘not to worry about [him] but rather worry about the country’ and the increasing number of neoliberal reforms implemented by the government.

This can also be seen as another example of the attempts by rightwing and neoliberal administrations across Latin America to accuse, sanction and jail progressive leaders on charges of corruption, misuse of public funds or, in the case of Correa, alleged kidnapping and criminal activity. Apart from the former Presidents of Brazil, Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina and Fernando Lugo of Paraguay have also been targeted by conservative political forces in their respective countries.

Jorge Glass, Lenin Moreno’s original running mate and vice-president until October 2017, also remains in jail on disputed charges of having allegedly received bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in exchange for favourable government-negotiated contracts.

Finally, the apparent complete lack of transparency and fair judicial procedure proved to be the last straw for the increasingly organised, agitated and militant opposition to the betrayal of the goals and achievements of the Citizens’ Revolution at the hands of Lenin Moreno’s government.

The new resistance movement is born  

Among the protesters were prominent social and indigenous leaders, as well as political figures and former and current members of Ecuador’s National Assembly that publicly disaffiliated from the ruling Country Alliance (Alianza Pais) party and continued to back Rafael Correa and the Citizens’ Revolution project. With the support and endorsement from the former president, leaders and supporters of the growing resistance have been increasingly organising around the newly-founded Movement of National Agreement (Movimiento Acuerdo Nacional, MANA) that seeks to defend and extend the original achievements and goals of the Revolution, including resistance to neoliberalism and US imperialism, reduction of poverty and inequality via higher social spending, the defence of the rights of nature and the integration of Latin America.

Some of the prominent leaders of the movement present at the rally included Gabriela Rivandeneira, the former president of the National Assembly of Ecuador, Ricardo Patiño, the former minister of foreign relations and defence, and Paola Pabón, a former member of the National Assembly and a feminist activist.

International solidarity with Correa grows

From across Latin America and the world, revolutionary, leftwing and progressive leaders have expressed their solidarity with Correa and against what are seen as politically-motivated charges which aim to delegitimise the ten years of progress under Correa’s administration. The most prominent among them have been the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, his Bolivian and Cuban counterparts, Evo Morales and Miguel Díaz-Canel respectively, as well as the former president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, former president of Uruguay, Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica, leader of the Spanish Podemos political party, Pablo Iglésias, and Argentinian Nobel Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

In July 2017, Correa spoke of his hope that the Trump administration could spark a pan-Latin American resistance movement to the US and build unity across the region. ‘I think that there is a good chance that given the primitive policies of Trump, we could not fight among ourselves but fight together against a common enemy’, he said. The continued persecution of the Latin America’s left-wing leaders could see that happen regardless of who sits in the White House.