Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa in New York on Sept. 29. (Julie Jacobson/AP)
President Rafael Correa of Ecuador is a studly man of irreproachable judgment and superlative masculinity, and don't doubt it, punk, or else.
That pretty much sums up a looming showdown in Ecuador, where opposition lawmaker Andrés Páez this week accepted the president's challenge to fight him mano-a-mano, saying he was ready "to defend the country with my fists and my life."
This sort of conflict resolution model sends a dubious message to the impressionable children of Ecuador, sure. But by now every man, woman and child in the country knows better than to mock the president.
He has threatened to put political cartoonists in jail for it, inviting this ribbingfrom HBO's John Oliver. In May, Correa halted his motorcade to berate a teenager who flipped him the bird from the sidewalk, punishing the kid with 20 hours of community service. Then there was that time in the middle of a police revolt when Correa ripped open his shirt to expose his bare chest, daring somebody to take a shot.
He is muy, muy macho. Especially on social media.
Páez, a frequent Correa critic, has been questioning the president's decision to buy helicopters from India, after a series of accidents in recent years. The lawmaker sent out a tweet last week challenging Correa to defend the decision to buy the helicopters "when he's never flown in one."
The president, who was elected to a third term in 2013 and remains relatively popular, wasn't going to let this sort of affront slide.
On Saturday, during his weekly television program "Citizen Connection," Correa accused Páez of insulting the victims of the helicopter accidents and said, "We can settle this how we used to in my old neighborhood."
"If he's got a problem with me, this demented liar, this swine knows where to find me or he can tell me where we can meet and we'll settle it, but he's a coward and will run away at the first chance," Correa told the crowd.
Páez fired back that afternoon with a Facebook post, saying Ecuadorians would prefer a debate, "which is what civilized people do, even though they have different views, so they can air their ideas in public, not their passions."
But lest anybody think he's some sort of wuss, Páez told the president that he "was ready for a clean fight."
"I hope you don't resort to scratches and hitting me with your purse. Tell me the place, time and day and I'll be there for you. If you don't do it, I'll have to."
For good measure, Páez then offered to pay Correa's medical bills — as well as "for psychiatric treatment to overcome the trauma."
The muscular, square-jawed Páez doubled down last night in an interviewwith CNN en Español, saying he was still ready to rumble with the president, "if that's what it takes to get him to engage in a debate."