Ecuador’s notoriously thin-skinned president took his hypersensitivity to the next level last week when he abruptly ordered his motorcade to halt in the middle of the street to berate a teenager for mocking him from the sidewalk.
President Rafael Correa stopped his motorcade in downtown Quito on May 1 after spotting a 17-year-old teen flipping him the bird from the sidewalk.
Bravely surrounded by his bodyguards, Ecuador’s most powerful man stepped from his bullet proof vehicle and aggressively huffed and puffed towards the teenager to confront him and his mother.
The startled teenager, Luis Carrera, says President Correa poked him repeatedly in the chest and scolded him on the sidewalk. He said the president was so angry that tears were forming in his eyes.
“He screamed ‘Show some respect, little kid! I am your president, you rude scoundrel!’” Carrera said.
Correa’s spokesman denied the teen's account and insists the president never laid a hand on the kid.
“He is lying, and the sad thing is that he is doing it in front of his mother,” said presidential spokesman Stefano Yannuzzelli. “President Correa descended from the vehicle and complained to the young man about his attitude. He asked him why he was doing that, and why he disrespected the president.”
Now, the finger-flipping teen is being punished for angering the touchy 51-year-old president. Carrera and his mother, who slapped one of the president's security guards during the incident, were dragged to a police station. Later on the teen was sentenced to 20 hours of community service.
The president accused opposition groups and the media of using the 17-year-old kid as part of their efforts to discredit his government.
“As always, the corrupt press makes a big show out of this, without showing contrasts, without investigating anything,” the president tweeted sullenly.
It's not the first time Correa has used the weight of the presidency to go after young critics.
In January, Correa accused several Facebook and Twitter users of trying to “destabilize” his government. He also launched a government webpage to publicly out Twitter critics and encourages his supporters to troll them with the “truth” about his “citizen’s revolution.”
Correa’s Twitter wars even made it to HBO show Last Week Tonight, where the Ecuadorean president was bashed by comedian John Oliver.
“If you’re so sensitive then Twitter and Facebook might not be for you,” Oliver told Correa. “If you’re skin was any thinner, you’d be a taint.”
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.