Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, a hardline leftist and long ally of South American socialists Hugo Chávez and Evo Morales, tweeted “¡Heil Hitler!” in response to a Twitter user posting an article reporting that ex-Ecuadorian President Osvaldo Hurtado had called him a “fascist” for his repeated crackdowns on journalists.
Correa’s tweet was not in response to any specific comment by Twitter user @; instead, it was in response to a photo of former President Hurtado speaking, presumably where he leveled his accusation of fascism.
@WKybalion ¡Heil Hitler!
— Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) April 9, 2015
Correa has tweeted a number of times since the fateful salute, though he has yet to explain or correct the remark. He has, rather, continued making questionable remarks, such as criticizing President Barack Obama by stating that “it is worrisome that an Afro minimizes history.”
The Times of Israel writes that, while “it wasn’t clear what Correa meant by the comment,” Correa has a long history of anti-Israel actions during his tenure. Correa has compared the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA), the most destructive terror attack in that nation’s history, to the campaign to oust Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. (He previously had described Qaddafi as a “very mistreated figure.”) The Times also notes that, more recently, Correa refused to travel on a state business trip to Israel because of last summer’s Operation Protective Edge against the terrorist group Hamas.
The German newspaper Bild condemned the tweet as a sign that Correa is “an impulsive leader not open to criticism.” That critique hits at the heart of why Hurtado had condemned Correa in the first place. Under Correa’s tenure, the Ecuadorian government has imposed severe restrictions on its media and called the press his “greatest enemy.”
Addressing the Summit of the Americas this weekend, Correa made headlines by criticizing Latin American press as “bad, very bad,” while claiming that “we all agree that a good press is vital.” He did not define what a “good press” is, only criticized “media outlets backed by for-profit associations.”
Correa’s Nazi social media gaffe occurred as opponents of the President had set off a firestorm on Twitter, after an image began circulating of Correa posing with a boy wearing a shirt that read, “I’m with Stupid.” Correa claims he is fluent in English, and he has not explained why he agreed to the photo. The mother of the boy in the photo claims her son does not speak English and did not “want to shame the President.”