Federal investigators spent a third day Sunday combing Ecuador’s presidential palace for concealed electronic recording devices. According to General Pedro Mosquera, head of the presidential security service, no other devices have been found in the building — officially, Carondelet Palace — since Thursday’s discovery of a camera hidden in the wall of President Lenin Moreno’s office.
“The investigation by the attorney general’s office will be thorough and deliberate,” Mosquera said Saturday, cautioning against speculation until the full results of the investigation are in. He said the process could take as long as 10 days.
Mosquera’s caution did not stop questions from security experts and political charges and counter-charges over the incident.
General Ernesto Gonzalez, who was in charge of the presidential security detail from 2010 to 2012, says he is “stunned” by the fact that camera was not discovered earlier. “They have made electronic sweeps of the president’s office for three months and I don’t understand how it has gone undetected,” he said. Several private sector security expert voiced similar opinions.
The camera was discovered by accident when a security guard felt a hot spot on the office wall. The camera was in operation when it was found.
An angry Moreno blamed former president Rafael Correa for installing the camera and not telling him about it and suggested Correa might be monitoring images and audio on his cell phone in Brussels. An equally angry Correa fired back via Twitter, challenging Moreno to prove the accusation and resign if he can’t.
Eduardo Mangas, General Secretary to the President, says it has been proven “without a doubt” that Correa ordered the camera installed in 2009 and that it was capable of transmitting images and sound by internet and cell phone. “It is total act of betrayal that the president would secretly record visitors to his office,” Mangas said. “Lenin Moreno does not condone this kind of treachery.”
Mangas added that it is against Ecuadorian law to make video and audio recordings of citizens without their knowledge.
Although most Alianza País supporters of Correa in the ongoing feud with Moreno have been silent on the matter, assemblywoman Soledad Buendía said Saturday that the camera was not hidden and that it was simply a security camera installed for the protection of the presidential office. “All the uproar is unnecessary and I agree with President Correa that he is owed an apology.”
Mangas fired back at Buendía in a Tweet: “This is absurd. Security cameras do not operate through peep holes in the wall.”