Leaked videos heat up Ecuador's presidential race

Leaked videos in which a disgraced former minister accuses Ecuador's vice president of taking part in corruption at the state-run oil company is heating up the final stretch of the country's presidential campaign.

In one of the videos, Oil Minister Carlos Pareja is seen taking a lie detector test in which he affirms all decisions at Petroecuador were made with the consent of Vice President Jorge Glas. The videos were posted Friday on social media by an anonymous user going by the name "Capaya Leaks" in reference to Pareja's nickname.

Glas is running again as vice president on a ticket backed by retiring President Rafael Correa in a closely contested election Feb. 19.

In a frenzy of tweets on Friday, Correa accused Pareja of fleeing justice and working with an opposition Ecuadorean banker in Miami to derail the campaign of his hand-picked successor, Lenin Moreno, who tops the Alianza Pais ticket that also includes Glas. He published a chain of emails between him and Pareja from October, after the corruption scandal broke, in which the former ally begs for forgiveness without admitting to any wrongdoing.

"Not a single question about the money he stole," Correa said on Twitter, in allusion to the video. "He begs for forgiveness and then sells himself."

Several officials linked to Petroecuador have been arrested as part of the scandal, accused of taking some $12 million in bribes for the construction of an oil refinery. Pareja is among those accused of profiting from graft and has so far refused to return to Ecuador to face charges.

In the video, he says that people close to Glas, including a former top aide and Petroecuador's current boss, Pedro Merizalde, are being protected from prosecution.

"It's clearer than water," Pareja says in the video, in which he appears to be speaking to two journalists. "And who protects him? Jorge Glas."

Allegations of corruption have dogged Correa's 10-year presidency and are hurting the leftist firebrand's chances of electing a successor at a time of deep strains in the dollarized, oil-dependent economy. The OPEC nation is seen as third-most corrupt in South America, ahead of only Venezuela and Paraguay, in Transparency International's latest annual ranking of corruption perceptions worldwide.

Polls show Moreno-Glas ticket with a slight edge ahead, but not with enough support to avoid a runoff in April in which his likely rival, banker Guillermo Lasso, is expected to prevail by rallying support from Correa's many opponents.