Ecuador’s vice-president is jailed during graft investigation
Jorge Glas, who has been detained to prevent him fleeing, is accused of taking bribes but says he has nothing to hide
Ecuador’s Vice-President Jorge Glas was jailed Monday after the Supreme Court ordered his arrest while he is investigated for allegedly taking bribes from a Brazilian construction giant involved in a sprawling regional graft scandal.
Police took Glas into custody at his residence in the city of Guayaquil and later transported him on an air force plane to the capital, Quito, where he is being held. Several supporters and former aides rushed to Guayaquil’s air force base to express solidarity with Glas, who they say was stabbed behind the back by his one-time ally, President Lenin Moreno.
Minutes before turning himself in, Glas posted online a video in which he said he would abide under protest the arrest order even while arguing that the case against him was based on lies, false testimony and procedural errors.
“Those who are innocent have no reason to flee,” said Glas in the video, in which he also urged supporters to continue fighting to defend the legacy of former President Rafael Correa, who both he and Moreno loyally served. “Don’t give up, fight for your revolution.”
Judge Miguel Jurado of Ecuador’s top court accepted a request from prosecutors that Glas be detained to guard against any attempt to escape. Until Monday’s ruling Glas was free but barred from leaving the country.
Across Latin America, once seemingly untouchable politicians, including the former leaders of Brazil and Peru, have been charged or are under investigation for purportedly taking bribes or illegal campaign contributions from Odebrecht as part of the construction company’s rapid expansion across the region the past decade.
Glas is highest-ranking official in Ecuador to be investigated and is suspected of leading a network of politicians and Correa officials who received US$33 million that the construction company Odebrecht has acknowledged paying in exchange for contracts when he served as vice-president from 2013 to 2017. The case is partly built on testimony by former Odebrecht executives as well as former government officials.
But Glas’ fall from grace has been compounded by the nation’s fast-shifting political landscape and a rupture in the ruling leftist coalition started by Correa.
In August, President Lenin Moreno stripped Glas of all of his duties as vice-president, relegating him to a mostly ceremonial role. Glas has refused to resign and in turn accused Moreno of betraying the legacy of Correa, who also expressed outrage over his aide’s arrest.
“An honest man has lost his freedom,” Correa wrote on Twitter.
Moreno, whose toughness on corruption and efforts to repair relations with the opposition and business community have proved wildly popular with Ecuadoreans, is now looking to corner his rivals even further.
On Monday night he presented his proposal for a nationwide referendum in which voters would be asked whether they want to eliminate the possibility of indefinite re-election, something that could pave the way for Correa’s return to power in 2021.
The proposal must still be approved by Ecuador’s constitutional court, where Correa maintains heavy influence.