(CNN) -- Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Friday he will not pay interest on the nation's foreign debt and that he was prepared to accept any consequences.
Correa made the comments to reporters in Guayaquil, Ecuador, about the interest payments, one of which was due Friday, his office said in a statement.
He said he was studying how to challenge the debt, which he called "immoral and a betrayal of the country," a reference to the way the terms of the debt were originally set.
He said that though $7 billion has already been spent to pay an original debt accrued during the 1980s of $4 billion, the principal remains about the same.
"If we have to confront international lawsuits, we will confront them and, I repeat, I assume all responsibility," he said. "I could not permit the continued payment of a debt that, in any light, is immoral and illegitimate."
Correa said he was preparing a restructuring plan to be presented to creditors within a few days, and he chafed at criticism of how the money has been spent.
"We have tried to pay this overdue social debt with a program of housing without parallel in Ecuadorian history, which certain corrupt members of the press -- in function of their political interests -- now want to discredit, pointing out the inevitable houses that -- out of 80,000 -- are going to have defects," he said.
But he said such complaints were outweighed by the "tens of thousands of happy families with their own worthy little houses ... and all the people who can testify to the success of the program."
The popular leftist economist said he would try to prove in international courts that the debt is illegal.