A file image in which Rafael Correa, former president, attends a book launch in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November 2021.
A file image in which Rafael Correa, former president, attends a book launch in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in November 2021.Natasha Pisarenko (AP)

Rafael Correa’s defense has been faster than the Ecuadorian Justice. The former president of Ecuador has been recognized by Belgium as a refugee seven days before the National Court of Justice of the Latin American country announced this Friday that it was giving way to an extradition order. Correa must serve a sentence for bribery in his country after being sentenced in 2020.

The general commissioner for refugees and stateless persons in Belgium resolved on April 15, according to EFE, a resolution granting refugee status in that country to the one who governed Ecuador for ten years. Since Rafael Correa left the presidency in 2017, he has moved to the European nation from which his wife is from. He returned to Ecuador just once more to campaign against the popular referendum called by his successor in the presidency, Lenín Moreno, in which the ban on re-election was put to the vote at the polls more than twice, which closed Correa’s return to Ecuadorian politics. Since then, the former president has faced several legal proceedings in his country and has received a single firm sentence for bribery to eight years in prison and 25 years of political disqualification.

The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry has informed EL PAÍS that until this Friday afternoon it has not officially received or confirmed the notification that Rafael Correa has refugee status in Belgium. Nor has the extradition order issued by the National Court to transfer it to the Belgian authorities reached Foreign Relations. The president of the Court, Iván Saquicela, has linked the new extradition request, precisely, to the Bribery case in which Correa was considered an indirect perpetrator in a plot about the irregular campaign contributions that his party, Alianza PAIS, received between 2012 and 2016.

There were two previous international extradition orders, one for the same bribery case and another for the process for the alleged kidnapping of opposition assemblyman Fernando Balda. Interpol has not issued a red alert against Correa so far. “Political asylum is the recognition that everything has been political persecution, but just keep pouring out your hatred, it helps people believe you less and less,” the former president posted on Twitter after learning of Belgium’s decision. The argument from persecution and lawfareas an abuse of justice against him, has been the constant thread of his defense.

lDespite Ecuador’s attempts to jail the former president, Correa has held political or academic meetings outside of Belgium in recent years. One of his last visits was last March to Xiomara Castro, president of Honduras, to whom he will advise on economic issues. He has also been in Mexico, in Spain, or in the possession of Alberto Fernández as Argentine president in 2019.

Correa’s lawyer for international affairs, Christophe Marchand, explained to the local newspaper Express that “the person who receives asylum, international protection, has the right to freedom of movement throughout the European Union, also receives a refugee passport.” That, according to the lawyer, “means that he can travel as he wants and that he has no restrictions on making statements, on his freedom of political expression.”

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Rafael Correa obtains asylum in Belgium and avoids his extradition to Ecuador | International

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