Former president Rafael Correa arrived in Guayaquil’s José Joaquín Olmedo airport just after midnight Saturday morning and was greeted by a handful of supporters before leaving for a nearby hotel.
Correa’s return comes at a crucial time for the Aliazna País (AP) political party that he led for 10 years. Although a majority of the 73 party members in the National Assembly support current president Lenin Moreno, a group reportedly numbering 18 continue to support Correa, attacking many of Moreno’s policies.
In the days preceding Correa’s return, both AP factions have called the other faction “illegitimate,” claiming to be the rightful representatives of the party.
In late October, AP’s National Directorate, which is dominated by Correistas, voted to replace Moreno as AP president with former Correa cabinet member Ricardo Patiña. Afterward, Ecuador’s National Electoral Council ruled the vote illegal on procedural grounds and ordered an investigation of the AP officers who ordered it.
In a hastily called meeting of Moreno loyalists on Thursday, AP executive director Gabriela Rivadeneira were replaced by Ricardo Zambrano. The meeting in Guayaquil appeared to be timed with Correa’s return.
Correa plans to attend an AP “convention” December 3 in Esmeraldas arranged by his supporters. “We will expel the traitor Lenin Moreno from AP at that time,” Correa said before he left Belgium.
“He (Moreno) has set the Citizens Revolution back 20 years in the six months he has been in office,” the former president said. “In Esmerladas, we will expel the people who have betrayed the Alianza País program, We will regain control of the movement we started.”
A founding member of AP says that Correa is taking a risk in returning to Ecuador. “He comes back in a weak position, with most AP members aligned with the president, not to mention a huge majority of voters,” says Esteban Flores. “He risks marginalizing himself and his supporters and could actually strengthen Moreno’s hand.”
Flores adds that if the questions on Moreno’s public referendum are approved by the Constitutional Court, Correa may soon be prohibited from running for office again in Ecuador. “Although he can act as a political organizer if he comes back here to live, he will be irrelevant as a political player,” he says. One of the questions on the proposed referendum would bar a president from serving more than two terms.
On Wednesday, Moreno challenged Correa to appear in public. “If he does, he will find out what the people of Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca think of him,” he said.
In addition to Guayaquil and Esmeraldas, Correa plans to visit Quito and Cuenca before he returns to Europe December 5.