Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno called Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro an “ass” in remarks Monday during a meeting with Ecuador’s Confederation of Workers.
The insult followed a rant by the Venezuelan leader, who ceased being the country’s legal head of state in January, in which he called Moreno “stupid” and accepted responsibility for enabling violent leftist agitators in Ecuador and Chile.
Riots erupted in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador, this month in response to Moreno announcing an end to a socialist gas subsidy that had been in place for decades, a provision agreed to as part of a deal to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While the rioters identified themselves as members of unspecified indigenous groups, the Ecuadorian government revealed evidence that Maduro and former socialist Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa were paying foreigners to enter the country and commit acts of violence in its major cities.
At least seven Latin American countries issued statements in support of Moreno and condemning Maduro for encouraging violence in the wake of the riots. The riots died down when Moreno agreed to keep the gas subsidy in place for now. He has since been focusing on building closer ties to leftist groups and workers’ unions that he hopes will prevent future uproars.
Moreno was responding directly to remarks by Maduro henchman and U.S.-sanctioned drug lord Diosdado Cabello celebrating the riots when he referred to Maduro as an “ass.”
“We are not shocked by Cabello’s joy, the joy of that ass governing Venezuela, Correa’s joy, it is definitely because they have their hands stuck in here,” Moreno reportedly said in remarks published by the broadcaster Ecuavisa. “I have no doubt, under any circumstance, that for aggression, for hiring organized crime gangs asked to beat [people], to assault, to burn Quito, there was foreign money involved.”
Cabello, the head of Maduro’s socialist party and a TV show host, called the riots in Ecuador part of a “Bolivarian hurricane” that would soon sweep Latin America. The protests in Chile — nominally about proposed subway hikes but rapidly descending into deadly looting and arson — were also on Cabello’s list of “hurricane winds,” as was the return of socialist Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to Argentine politics and the political crisis in Peru.
“What is happening in Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Argentina, Honduras is just a little breeze, and what is coming is a Bolivarian hurricane,” he said. “We are not isolated from the world — on the contrary, Venezuela every day is more consolidated.”
Maduro made similar comments celebrating riots in Chile and Ecuador on Sunday, mocking those who blamed the “Sao Paulo Forum” — a coalition of far-left leaders organized by Cuba in Latin America — for conspiring to destabilize the region.
“I am happy when I see the people wake up,” Maduro said. “To the Sao Paulo Forum, the plan is going in full development, victorious. All the goals that we proposed in the Forum we are achieving one by one.”
Maduro went on to call Moreno “stupid” twice and accuse “savage capitalism” of being behind the riots.
“They blame me and all of Venezuela. The people of Ecuador rose up against the IMF and stupid Lenín Moreno says I sent 200 men over there,” Maduro said. “It is offensive to the indigenous movement, it’s an offense to the people of Ecuador from stupid Lenín Moreno.”
Moreno, on Monday, also used the meeting with the workers’ group to note that the protests were triggered by the presidency being open about the terms of the loan from the IMF. Correa, a hard leftist who rejected money from the West, preferred to cut deals with the Chinese Communist Party that investigators once described as “the greatest heist in history.”
“Before, when they cut deals with the Chinese, nobody knew the terms,” Moreno argued. “Now everything is transparent because one of the goals is … to achieve transparency, justice, and the optimization of resources.”
Correa lives as a fugitive in Belgium, wanted for arrest over the abduction of a political dissident. Moreno’s government has also found extensive evidence of corruption indicating that Correa signed several lucrative infrastructure and oil deals with China that impoverished the country.
Maduro and Correa are close allies; Maduro appeared as a guest on Correa’s Russia Today (RT) television show last month.
Ecuador’s Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner provided journalists with evidence this month that foreigners tied to Maduro were offering up to $50 to individuals to enter Ecuador and begin rioting in its cities. He noted that a “significant number of foreign citizens” were arrested burning items in the streets during “protests.”
“We must emphasize the fact that in the demonstrations, we have arrested a significant number of infiltrating foreign citizens,” he said. “Foreign citizens who in their testimonies have admitted to receiving money between $40 and $50 for attending these demonstrations.”
Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Peru issued a joint statement condemning Venezuela for its role in the Ecuador riots this month, reading in part: “We … reject all actions intended to destabilize our democracies on the part of the Nicolás Maduro regime and those who seek to extend the influence of his nefarious government project to the democratic countries of the region.”