Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa has accused the US of trying to destabilise his government, by infiltrating it with spies.
The 51-year-old economist trained in the US has faced opposition protests as he seeks constitutional changes that would allow him to seek re-election next year to another four-year term.
“There has been infiltration here, by the CIA (US Central Intelligence Agency) to wear down the government,” Correa, a close ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, said in his weekly address.
Maduro has repeatedly claimed that the US is trying to topple his government.
Analysts say Maduro makes the charge, denied by Washington, to deflect attention from economic crisis there.
The Ecuadorean president also issued a statement criticising the US aggression toward Venezuela, asking “how long will we have to put with these things?”
Correa criticised President Barack Obama’s decision to sign an executive order last week declaring Venezuela an “extraordinary threat to national security.”
“How can the US possibly claim that Venezuela is a threat to their national security?” President Correa asked during his weekly address to the nation.
While Ecuador’s growth has slowed, it is not in crisis like Venezuela. Maduro has moved toward a centrally planned system increasingly similar to that of its top regional ally, communist Cuba.
Opposition forces took to Ecuador’s streets starting Thursday over Correa’s policies and his bid for another term, which would have to be approved by the legislature controlled by his supporters.
Correa has been president since 2007.
His constitutional reforms would allow unlimited re-election, setting him up to run again next year.
Irate union supporters say his plans would not respect workers’ right to unionise, and indigenous people say his land legislation would erode their rights over traditional land use.
The demonstrations are “a strategy to wear us down,” the president said.
“If they can destabilise us, they will. If they can’t, they know how much popular support we have. So all they can do is try to keep wearing us down ahead of the upcoming elections.”
On Saturday, Correa said he was victim of an “ambush” by a “mob” of demonstrators at an event in Riobamba.
In February, Correa had a 55% approval rating, and 81% said unlimited re-election should be voted on in a referendum, not by the legislature, pollsters Cedatos found.
Meanwhile, an extraordinary meeting of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) began on Saturday, in the regional body’s headquarters in Quito, Ecuador, to discuss the executive action approved by US President Barack Obama.
The 12-nation regional bloc condemned Washington’s actions against the democratically-elected government of Maduro.