Reports indicate that on November 7 a federal judge requested Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant against former President Rafael Correa (2007-2017) in connection to the kidnapping in Colombia of former Congressman Fernando Balda in 2012. Opposed to Correa, Balda left Ecuador in 2009 over alleged fears of political persecution. In 2012 a group of assailants forced Balda into a car, purportedly attempting to return the politician to Ecuador. Colombian police foiled the kidnapping, subsequently detaining one of the assailants, who confessed ties to elements in Ecuador’s security services. The Ecuadorian judiciary is also investigating former Intelligence Director Pablo Romano, imprisoned in Spain since June, and two former policemen suspected of being involved in the incident. Sources indicate that Correa, who lives in Belgium since 2017, has requested asylum in June.
Although Correa has denied having applied for asylum in Belgium, pundits argue that he moved abroad to avoid judicial investigations which could potentially turn against him. In any case, given that he has a residence permit in the country, he is not likely to qualify as an asylum seeker under Belgian law. While Ecuadorian judicial authorities are pressing for Correa’s extradition, Belgian authorities are unlikely to come to a decision promptly. That said, if extradited eventually, Correa’s trial could turn into a major political development which would likely polarize Ecuadorian society. Correa still enjoys much popular support in the country, as witnessed during pro-Correa marches in July. Bearing in mind these incidents devolved into localized violence against security forces, the Balda case is likely to trigger political turmoil over the coming months.