By Luis Hernandez Navarro
Former Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño has a long-time relation with Mexico. He studied economics at Mexico’s Metropolitan Autonomous University in Iztapalapa, eastern Mexico City, graduating at the top of his class in 1979. Today, 40 years and many visits later, he is back in Mexico under less favorable conditions than back in those days. Amid a business trip, he found out here that his political opponents in Ecuador want to put him in jail.
He has been charged for alleged instigation. But the accusation is so feeble that Judge Beatriz Benitez has refused to carry out a pre-trial detention against the ex-minister.
According to Ecuador’s Prosecutor, they ordered Patiño’s detention on April 13 due to statements he made to CNN. “There is so much illegality, so much abuse, that I have to analyze seriously whether I will stay or not in the country,” he said to the network.
Then on April 17, 2019 the ex-minister traveled from Ecuador to Peru since the arrest warrant had not been issued yet. He then traveled to Mexico to finalize arrangements regarding some publications.
Patiño worked in close collaboration with former President Rafael Correa. He was his Foreign Minister for six years. He was in that office when he granted asylum to Julian Assange at Ecuador’s Embassy to Great Britain. In 2012, he declared the United States Ambassador, Heather Hodges, persona non-grata and expelled her from the country.
Correa’s ex-minister shortly served in an advisory capacity to current President Lenin Moreno but he eventually broke political relations with him. He unsuccessfully fought for the leadership of Alianza Pais, the political party founded by Correa, and became one of Moreno’s main opponents inside the country. In that context, and as the Moreno Government grows unpalatable, the political persecution against Patiño has strengthened.
Ricardo Patiño talked to La Jornada as a continuation of an interview previously made by Marcela Aldama a few days ago. Portions of the conversation can be read below.
You left your country as a free man and, once you arrived in Mexico, you found out that Ecuador is demanding your arrest. What’s the reason for this situation?
They are persecuting me for political reasons. I’ve come to Mexico many times during the last years. Just remember I studied here. I got a Bachelor’s degree in Economics at UAM (Metropolitan Autonomous University) in Iztapalapa. I have many good friends here.
You were an exemplary student.
Well I studied a lot in those years. I come here often, usually invited to talk about Latin American politics. I was invited for the inauguration ceremony of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. I came now to review some publications that are under way.
Just as I arrived in this country, a hearing was held in Ecuador to bring accusations against me. They filed charges, issued an arrest warrant, requested an Interpol red alert due to comments I made in a local meeting of the Citizens’ Revolution Movement on October last year.
I did not address the media but to militants of the movement. I told them we have to strengthen our grass-roots activities and to continue accompanying our people, who have been deceived by the Lenin Moreno Administration.
Moreno is firing tens of thousands of public employees. He has reduced the budget for education and health. There is a complete lack of attention to small and medium-sized peasants, farmers, fishermen and artisans.
That is why we called on our militants to join those people in the streets, roads and public institutions. But always peacefully. Without violence. I’ve said it and have repeated it lots of times. During my speech at that meeting held in the city of Latacunga, I openly said -and the attorney admits so- that I called for demonstrations to be non-violent.
Despite that, in recent days, they started an investigation and demanded my arrest. The judge who received the attorney’s order said she could not accept that. She denied it. But after that, they convened a hearing to file charges an arrest warrant for me was issued.
It is obviously political persecution. They have not been able to come up with any other accusation. They cannot accuse me of theft, corruption, or mismanagement during the 10 years I served for the Rafael Correa Administration. So, they have made up an alleged ‘instigation crime’.”
It seems trendy to accuse progressive politicians of corruption. Why didn’t they do it with you?
I served as minister in five offices: Finance, Coast, Politics, Foreign Affairs, and Defense. My longest term was in Foreign Affairs, in which I remained for six years, then Defense for a year and a half. Since our term finished, on May 24 2017, I’ve been through many audits about issues I undersigned and others I didn’t. They have not been able to find anything, any single objection, any note, anything that might be included in an investigation. Absolutely nothing. There has been new audit every week. One after the other. They want to find something quickly to build a case to arrest me. But as they do not find anything, they invent those charges.
Doesn’t an instigation crime entail inciting violence?
That is what they say. They accuse me of inciting the population to use violence to destroy, overthrow a government.
But that’s not true. We’ve said it in hundreds of speeches: We are not going to foster a coup d’état. We are going to request, abiding by the Constitution, a recall referendum. We are going to support Ecuadorean migrants who have requested this to the National Electoral Council, to gather signatures so that a popular vote decides whether that President gets to continue in office or not.
The Constitution and laws are clear. If an authority is not fulfilling his campaign promises, his term may be revoked by part of the population that voted to elect him. That’s what we are doing.
Furthermore, people have the right to go out and demonstrate so that the Government´ knows there is disagreement. Never using violence. It’s the right to resist, for freedom through the expression of demonstrations.
The ‘right to resistance’ exists in Ecuador’s Constitution. Resistance when a Government, authority, or even some citizens carry out actions that may undermine the rights of the population. Our actions abide by the Constitution.
In an interview with CNN you announced the possibility of fleeing the country because there was some sort of persecution under way.
We felt there was persecution coming. It was evident in the fact that the Saturday before an attorney requested a court to arrest me, to issue an arrest warrant to start an investigation. Thinking back the process actually started last October as I have been called to attend hearings. That is why I told an international news company that I was concerned about the current situation.
Vice-president Jorge Glass is imprisoned without any evidence. There is an arrest warrant against Rafael Correa. They have arbitrarily made up a trial for an alleged kidnap. They have infringed the law and Constitution. Those who file charges are every day contradicting themselves, they lie. However, they issued an arrest warrant.
There is a campaign to persecute all of those who worked with President Correa. We are not presuming this. They say it clearly. The chairperson of the Citizen’s Participation Council has said it repeatedly. They say they have to destroy Correa’s movement, this is evident political persecution.
You were Ecuador’s Foreign Minister when Julian Assange sought shelter at Ecuador’s Embassy to London. Do you think this persecution is linked to that event?
It is linked, even though the Lenin Moreno Administration granted the Ecuadorean citizenship certificate to Julian Assange about a year ago.
He has now illegally revoked that certificate. The Moreno Administration did not want to continue having Julian Assange as a refugee in our embassy because they made a deal with the United States Administration when Mike Pence was in Ecuador. Close allies of Lenin Moreno have revealed that he made three offers to the United States in exchange for receiving loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
One was joining the list of governments against Venezuela. The second, undermining the South American and Latin American integration. And the third handing over Julian Assange.
We have responded to that. We granted diplomatic asylum and our Constitution clearly expresses that there is the principle of non-refoulement. You cannot return a refugee to his executioners. That is also stated in international refugee conventions and agreements. It is also stated by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which established a non-refoulement principle that must be respected as part of international law.
We have defended Julian Assange’s right to remain as refugee. But the Moreno Administration allowed Scotland Yard to enter our Embassy and drag a defenseless citizen out. We are ashamed of it today and will for the rest of our life. Lenin Moreno will go down in history as a traitor.
That is an element that explains my persecution. But there is another more important than this one.
What would that be?
Claims filed against Moreno and his inner circle about opening secret bank accounts in tax havens. Offshore companies, consultants in Ecuador back in 2012 when the current President was vice-president of the Republic, would have the money deposited in them.
Those accounts were opened on behalf of Edwin Moreno Garces, the brother of the vice-president. Then, they bought apartments in Spain, luxury items, among other things, with that money.
President Moreno is trying to evade his responsibility saying it belongs to his brother, that he is not linked to that, that those luxurious items belonged to a friend who asked him to keep them in his apartment. As if he was a pawn broker or something.
President Moreno does not know how to get rid of this. Because there are also several emails which show that he is imminently involved in that he not only knew about it but profited from it.
We have not filed a single complaint. But we have indeed demanded the President to explain it because he was the Vice-President when that occurred.
But because he cannot get out of this fix he has become desperate, he is starting to involve anyone and everyone in a smear campaign. And because I am a representative of the Citizen’s Revolution Movement -and we had very positive electoral results in the recent local elections-, they want to eliminate us. Not only judicially, but also at a personal, family level. They are trying to put us in jail, to destroy us.
Prisons in Ecuador are very dangerous places. Many people are killed inside them. There is not much control and there is all kind of weapons in them. We would run a substantial risk in jail. This is very serious.
Lenin Moreno was your candidate. What happened?
We are very sorry that this man deceived us. He is a professional impostor. He deceived all members of the Government, starting with President Correa. When he served for six years as Vice-President and four years as special representative to the United Nations Organization, he never expressed significant differences, other than stylistic, to the Citizen’s Revolution Government.
Now, according to him, everything made by Correa and his Administration is terrible, the worst, a catastrophe. He accuses Correa of murder, kidnapping, and he even said he is the leader of a mafia. The only thing left to accuse him of is being a horseman of the Apocalypse. But when we were in office it was different, he always made wonderful comments about Correa and the Citizen’s Revolution. He spared no adjectives to extol them.
He was always a hypocrite. I am sure this is all part of an agreement with the United States Administration, particularly with the CIA. We found that one of Moreno’s closest collaborators, Andres Michelena, was a CIA informant. Gustavo Larrea has also been connected to this criminal U.S. agency.
Why is it so easy to reverse the achievements of the Citizen’s Revolution?
I think we’ve made some mistakes. Despite working for our people and we introduced regulations (there was a Constitution and we created public policies for people to have rights), we failed in empowering the citizens and civil organizations to sufficiently appropriate those rights.
There is a reaction to face Moreno’s attacks but at this point it is not strong enough to prevent those actions from destroying the achievements of the Citizen’s Revolution.
But I don’t think Moreno will be able to reverse some issues. He will not be able to destroy public works for example. Neither rights to health. But he has been able to reverse some things. We need more political awareness among the population to prevent the consolidation of that destruction.