Leftist Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has challenged an opposition party Congressman to a fistfight on national television and received an enthusiastic “yes” from Congressman Andrés Páez, who promised to pay his medical bills after the fight.
Correa issued his challenge on Sunday night on his television show Citizen Link. Correa, a Bolivarian socialist with close ties to the socialist dictatorship in Venezuela, has long hosted his own television program, an idea he adapted from the late Hugo Chávez. On Sunday’s program, Correa repeatedly called Páez “swine” and “coward,” and issued a challenge to solve their differences “like we did back in the day.”
“I don’t want to set a bad example for children,” he told his audience. “No, but that is how problems were solved back in the day in my neighborhood. If this swine has a problem with me, he knows where to find me– or tell me where to meet, and we will solve any problem.”
“But he is a coward, he goes off running at any challenge. How can there be a liar of such nature?” he told his audience. Correa also called Páez a “clown” and lamented that “for calling him that, I’m the insulting one now.” He predicted Páez “will never respond to me.”
A few hours later, Páez issued a blistering response on Facebook. In a post titled “Rafael Correa: Yes, I Accept the Challenge!” Páez issues his own parameters for a fistfight. Namely, he demands that the two engage in a legitimate political debate before beating each other up, and tells Correa not to worry about his hospital bill afterwards:
Nation, I defend you with my fists and my life.
President Correa, I listened to your nonsense today with no shock whatsoever. I say without any shock because you have no other skills outside of threats and insults. The nation would have expected you to invite me to a debate, the way it should be between civilized people who, despite having different positions, are required to publicly defend their ideas, not their base passions.
I do not believe it is appropriate for politicians to challenge each other to fistfights; I have never done it. But since you think you’re such a brave little man, you need to be put in a “time out.” You need someone to finally confront you, on this level, also, to teach you a lesson.
And don’t worry, I will pay for your healing, as well as psychiatric therapy so that you can resolve your trauma.
Páez concludes his response by insulting Correa’s education: “P.S.– I am not writing to you in English because I want to make sure your understand my missive.” In English, he concludes, “Sorry!”
Páez found himself in Correa’s crosshairs following a tweet in which he challenged Correa on the purchase of a number of Indian-made Dhruv helicopters, which have had several accidents since their purchases. “If Dhruv helicopters are so good,” Páez wrote in a tweet, “why does Correa never use them to travel? He has only defended their purchase!”
Si tan buenos eran los helicópteros DHRUV porque Correa nunca los utilizo para movilizarse en ellos? Solo defendió su adquisición!
— Andrés Páez (@andrespaezid) October 16, 2015
Four Dhruv helicopters have suffered accidents in Ecuador since 2009. The last accident, in January 2015, occurred as a group of Indian researchers were in the country investigating the previous accident. One of the helicopters involved in an accident had been used to transport Correa himself, making many Ecuadorians question whether the purchase of these economically attractive helicopters had put the nation’s stability at risk.
The resulting challenge to Correa’s authority has resulted in violent rhetoric like that above, a regular occurrence, particular with regards to the media.
Correa has become one of the most vocal opponents of the idea of a free press being integral to a country’s freedom. At a talk at Harvard University in 2014, Correa shocked listeners by insisting that “freedom of expression” as a good thing was “an American opinion,” and that the notion that “someone who slanders doesn’t have to go to jail” is not a “universal value.” He has prosecuted a number of journalists and pundits for opposing his socialist policies, and has founded a website for which Internet trolls are hired to “attack” those who express disagreement with Correa on social media.