Ecuador leftists will back security reforms but oppose government, former president says

FILE PHOTO: Ecuador holds referendum on security measures to fight violence

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) -Ecuador's former President Rafael Correa said on Monday his party, which is now in opposition, will support security measures widely backed by voters in a weekend referendum but will otherwise oppose President Daniel Noboa in the legislature.

Noboa, who initially enjoyed a wide legislative coalition, won support for joint police-military patrols, the extradition of wanted criminals and longer sentences for terrorism and murder, among other measures, in the Sunday referendum.

The changes are intended to battle spiking violence that has made international headlines.

To implement the nine approved measures, the government will need to make at least five changes to existing laws. Lawmakers will have 60 days to approve the amendments.

Correa told Reuters his Citizens' Revolution party will support the security measures because of their popular backing.

"If they are the fruits of the referendum, that's a mandate from the we obviously have to support," Correa said in a video call.

Correa has lived in Belgium since leaving office in 2017 and has been convicted in absentia for corruption.

Noboa, who took office in November, originally counted Citizens' Revolution as part of its legislative coalition, but relations have fractured especially after Noboa ordered police into the Mexican embassy in Quito to arrest Correa's former vice-president Jorge Glas on corruption charges.

The incident drew international criticism and led Mexico to break relations with Ecuador.

"We will oppose immoral laws and we will be harder critics of the government because what they have done with the incursion at the Mexican embassy and the kidnapping of a person with asylum breaks principles," Correa said.

Ecuador has "a bad president and a bad government," Correa added, saying some laws are unnecessary or look to illegitimately benefit only certain sectors.

Noboa's government notched big wins in nine of the 11 questions put to the public in the referendum, according to the national electoral council, with between 60% and 72% support.

"The results were expected, an overwhelming support for the two theses of the government, which was the security issue and the fight against corruption," government vice-minister Esteban Torres told local radio on Monday morning.

"We have made it clear to those who, for political reasons...oppose the will of Ecuadoreans who have told them 'legislators, work with the government on security reforms,'" said Torres. "Dialogue can be restarted and things can be done in a mature way, that is the expectation."

Two referendum measures - one which would allow workers to be contracted by the hour and another recognizing international arbitrage - failed, but Torres said the government remains focused on job creation.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Julia Symmes CobbEditing by Rosalba O'Brien and Sonali Paul)