Explosive claims about guerrilla bribes, narco-trafficking and vote tampering have rocked Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, just days after he appeared to triumph in a national referendum. Today, prosecutors in Ecuador have finally decided to investigate allegations that President Rafael Correa’s election campaign accepted funds from Colombian rebels back in 2006.
It all began last week, when the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) published a report which claims that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) helped to fund Mr Correa’s 2006 presidential election campaign. The 240-page oeuvre cites evidence that a $100,000 payment was delivered by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to Correo’s election coffers and goes on to claim that for the Colombian guerrillas, this was a “climax” of years of efforts to infiltrate Ecuador. The report is based on a two-year study of e-mails and documents recovered during a raid by Colombian forces on a Farc camp in Ecuador in March 2008 and testimony provided by a former rebel who later defected.
Meanwhile, at a news conference in Ecuador’s capital Quito, President Correa denied ever meeting the Farc or a representative thereof. “I’ll take a lie detector test to prove I never received funds from the Farc,” he proclaimed. Yet the sense of alarm in Quito deepened even further when Jay Bergman, the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s Andean region director, stated that Ecuador was slowly turning into a “United Nations” of organized crime, with drug traffickers from Albania to China using it as a staging ground for Andean cocaine.
Only last weekend, Mr Correa had consolidated his grip on power when he managed to push through all 10 issues in a referendum held on 7 May on a range of questions, from banalities like bullfighting and cockfighting restrictions, to fundamental democratic questions like increasing executive branch control over the courts and media. Though the final results have yet to be confirmed, indicators suggest that Correa marginally won public approval, thus handing him more power than any democracy should provide.
Ecuador’s president is still far from accumulating absolute power. He does not control Congress, and he is strapped for cash. Yet this past referendum was merely the latest in a series of creeping policies aimed at enhancing executive prerogatives at the expense of democratic institutions. In the past, Mr Correa has played a dangerous game. Let us hope the current investigation can help bring the country back on track. In the meantime, Mr Correa should better start worrying about Ecuador’s next national elections of 2013, as voters are still the ultimate lie detectors.
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