Vice president of Ecuador resigns amid corruption investigation

Latin America

The vice president of Ecuador has been forced to resign amid a corruption investigation. This is the second vice president in the current government to be forced out of office.

CGTN’s Dan Collyns filed this report from Quito.

President Lenin Moreno promised what he called major surgery on corruption when he was elected last year. Earlier this week, he suspended Vice President Maria Alejandra Vicuna, who faces allegations of receiving kickbacks from a staff member between 2011 and 2013 when she was a lawmaker.

Addressing the nation, Moreno said he took the action so Vicuna could prepare her defense, but Vicuna has resigned. She denied wrongdoing, and said she received the payments which the former aide made voluntarily.

“Ever since I became vice president, I’ve received constant slanderous and base attacks of the worst kind, because I’m a woman, and I’m from left,” Vicuna said.

Vicuna’s case is part of a wider corruption scandal in the seat of power. Most countries in South America are currently going through their own crackdowns on corruption, and Ecuador is no exception. The latest scandal in Quito, involving lawmakers allegedly extorting money from their own employees, has caused particular public outrage.

So far, one legislator has been fired, and others are under investigation for taking cuts from their employees’ salaries, supposedly as contributions to their political parties. Independent parliamentarian Eliseo Azuero was part of an investigative commission in Ecuador’s lower house.

“It’s an open secret, and there’s more than one case,” he said. “There’s a lot of cases and they should all be duly investigated. For that to happen, parliament has to lay down its own internal rules.”

Moreno’s previous vice president, Jorge Glas, is now in jail. He was convicted of running a bribery scam to get millions of dollars from Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant at the center of South America’s biggest corruption scandal.

Glas was Moreno’s running mate in the 2017 election, and both men served as vice presidents to Rafael Correa during his decade in office. Moreno faces an uphill struggle to restore Ecuador’s standing, both at home and abroad, after a wave of graft scandals emerged following Correa’s 10-years as leader.