Ecuador ex-president vows to 'keep fighting' after protege's defeat

Former Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa speaks to AFP during an interview in Mexico City following his protege's election defeat

Former Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa told AFP on Tuesday that he plans to keep up his political fight from exile following his protege's election defeat.

The left-winger, a key figure in Sunday's presidential poll despite living in Belgium, denied that socialist economist Andres Arauz's loss to former banker Guillermo Lasso marked the end of "Correism."

Asked what his plan was now, Correa said during an interview in Mexico City where he watched the vote unfold that he would "keep fighting" from abroad.

"We were on the verge of winning the presidency and I believe that in 2025 we can win it," said the two-time former president, who has been convicted in absentia for corruption.

"I am afraid that in this period I am very necessary. I understand very well the responsibility that I have," the 58-year-old added.

Correa said that Lasso's victory was the result of "persecution" against him by the current government, but he extended an olive branch to the president-elect.

"We will support everything that is good for the country. We will democratically oppose what we believe is bad, without lending ourselves to destabilization," said Correa, who was in office from 2007-2017.

Asked if he would be willing to return to defend himself in court, he said: "If I go back to Ecuador, it will be to hug my mother who is 86 years old... But my life in the medium term is in Belgium."

Lasso on Monday announced a "true change" in Ecuador after bringing an end to an era of left-wing election victories with his defeat of 36-year-old Arauz.

The right-winger will inherit a pandemic-stricken and debt-laden economy and a political system riven by gridlock when he takes over from the unpopular Lenin Moreno next month.

He faces a tough job during his four-year term with Arauz's leftist Union of Hope coalition the largest party in parliament, while the Pachakutik indigenous movement is the second biggest.

"I think there's a consensus on what has to be done at the health level, vaccinate as quickly as possible" against Covid-19, Correa said.

"But on the social and economic side we totally disagree. Lasso's austerity policies bankrupt countries."

Many experts billed the election as a battle of "Correism versus anti-Correism" in a country bitterly divided along political lines.

Correa would have been Arauz's running mate but for an eight-year corruption sentence.

He moved to Belgium when he left office and still lives there, avoiding his prison term.