Rafael Correa has dismissed as "nonsense" allegations that he is plotting with Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro to destabilise the current Ecuadorean government amid violent unrest sparked by fuel price hikes.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the former Ecauadorean president called for a new election to solve the crisis. He has been accused by his successor, current president Lenín Moreno, of trying to foment a coup with the help of Maduro.
"It's ridiculous," Correa said of the accusations.
Protests in the South American nation of 17 million started last week after Moreno ended fuel subsidies, leading to price increases. The government said at least 700 people have been arrested, and Moreno has moved government operations from the capital Quito to the city of Guayaquil.
Asked about his relation with Maduro, Correa said they enjoy a friendly relationship, adding that he also acts as an economic adviser to Venezuela.
"Because the economic situation of Venezuela, everybody knows [it] is really serious," he said, speaking in English. "But because of the embargo, the economic sanctions, they are not economic sanctions. They are economic aggression, okay? But this is crazy, Moreno says whatever he wants, but this is irrational."
Correa, who served as president for a decade, from 2007 to 2017, took up residence in his wife’s native Belgium after leaving office. He has since been accused of corruption and faces an arrest warrant issued last year in Ecuador. Describing himself as a victim of "political persecution," he said he has been charged with a total of 29 offenses, including misuse of power. Though he fears he will be jailed if he returns to his home country, Correa said he could come back if Moreno calls new elections. The current Ecuadorian president has said he will not step down.
"Not that I have a role myself, but the solution is very clear," he said. "We have an article 130 and article 138, allowing the national assembly or the president himself, to call for anticipated elections for the case of very strong political crisis or social unrest, exactly the situation we have right now."
Five people have died according to the Ecuadorian public defender’s office and approximately 266 have been injured since the unrest began last week.