Ecuador: Military High Command Forced out in Scandal
The Ecuadoran armed forces, which has been one of the country's most respected institutions, suffered a blow to its image late last year when four officers were accused of corruption. The scandal persisted and finally cost the careers of three of the country's top military commanders.
On Feb. 4, Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Osvaldo Dominguez said sanctions might be applied against four officers accused of corruption regarding an insurance contract for a fleet of military planes. Dominguez said he was waiting for the report from the investigators in the case.
The matter is being investigated by the Corte de Justicia Militar, the attorney general, Congress, and the Defensoria del Pueblo. Those implicated are Gens. Roberto Moya (army) and Marcelo Moscoso (air force), Vice Adm. Edgar Guerra, and Maj. Byron Vaca (navy). The four traveled to London in January 2001 to sign the US$23 million contact with London-based Heath Lambert Group to insure air force planes.
The charges against the officers were first raised in November 2001 by Navy Capt. Rogelio Viteri. At the time officers signed the insurance contract with Heath Lambert, Viteri was naval attache at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.
Viteri alleged that the government was overcharged by US$4 million for the insurance. In addition, he claimed that the officers received "favors" from the company that included a two-week European vacation for the officers and their wives. After his public complaint, Viteri was removed from his post in the embassy.
Alfredo Corral, head of the government accounting office (Contraloria General del Estado), said on Feb. 4 that his investigation pointed to fraud by the four officers.
On Feb. 5, Viteri repeated his charges to the attorney general. A few days later, his military superiors ordered him detained for five days for "lack of discipline." It was Viteri's third arrest since November. He was released on Feb. 13. "It is the third arrest" in barely two months, said Viteri as he left the military center where he had been held. "I have spent 23 days in jail."
"The truth is coming out and with more force, and that's what's important," said Viteri. "We have not attacked any institution, we have not misused the communications media to attack anyone," only to ask that the facts be clarified.
President replaces military commanders
Public anger about the scandal grew, and on Feb. 20, three of Ecuador's top military commanders stepped down. Defense Minister Hugo Unda told reporters that the chiefs of Ecuador's Navy and Air Force, and the head of the joint military command had resigned at the request of the president because of the crisis. …