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Correa's trial is an attack on Ecuador's democracy

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On April 7, a top court in Ecuador sentenced the country's former left-wing President Rafael Correa to eight years in jail in absentia for corruption. The ruling in the case, which came to be known as Sobornos (Bribes) 2012-2016, is still pending appeal and Correa's lawyers will no doubt take this matter to international institutions where they will argue he has been the victim of a political witch-hunt with no respect for due process.

Correa, who has been living in his wife's home country, Belgium, since before Ecuador's current president, Lenin Moreno, unleashed the judiciary against him, is unlikely to be extradited in the context of what has become a highly politicised process.

The fact that Interpol has already rejected a red notice that Ecuador had requested against Correa, albeit for a different case, is a strong indicator that there is little international trust in the political neutrality of Ecuador's justice system.

The primary goal of the trial, however, is not to imprison Correa, but to make sure he is prevented from entering the country and from appearing on any ballot in the 2021 presidential and parliamentary elections.

This manipulation of the judicial system in order to prosecute opponents is familiar enough to observers of Latin America; indeed, it is such a well-worn strategy of the region's resurgent right that it has its own name: "lawfare".

What is new in the case of Ecuador is the scale of this practice. Perverting the legal system in order to subvert the democratic process has become the defining strategy - indeed, the essence - of the current government, which is faced with plummeting popularity and an opposition that would win in any fair election. This is not good news for democracy in Ecuador or Latin America.

The Moreno government has faced rising unpopularity (his credibility rating oscillates between seven and 14.7 percent depending........

© Al Jazeera