President Rafael Correa is questioning the information released by U.S. prosecutors in the Odebrecht bribery scandal. “I believe there is a smear campaign against my government being waged by my opponents and I think it is based on incorrect and incomplete information released by the U.S.”
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that Odebrecht, the giant Brazilian infrastructure development company, paid almost $800 million in bribes to government officials in Latin American countries. It said that bribes of $33.5 million were paid to Ecuadorian officials between 2007 and 2016.
According to the Justice Department, the information was provided by Odebrecht, which agreed to pay the U.S. a multi-billion dollar fine for using the U.S. banking system for illegal purposes.
“This information is being used selectively and maliciously to harm my cabinet and administration,” Correa said Saturday. “The conduct of the national government has always been transparent and determined in the interests of the country.”
Correa added that he expelled Odebrecht from Ecuador in 2008 for irregularities in construction of a hydroelectric plant. “No one is mentioning this.”
According to presidential candidate Cynthia Viteri, the 2008 expulsion is only part of the story. “He (Correa) keeps saying he kicked out Odebrecht but what he doesn’t say is that he let them back in two years later when he was pressured by his socialist friend Lula (former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva).
Viteri and other opposition party presidential candidates are claiming that the Odebrecht scandal is part of a larger “pattern” of corruption by government officials during Correa’s 10 years in office. They cite the Petroecuador scandal that involves dozens of officials, some of whom have fled the country.
Correa claims that, if there is corruption in the Odebrecht case, most of it involves officials in local governments, such as in Quito, where Odebrecht was contracted for several public transportation projects.
“At this point, the information from the U.S. does not tell the true story,” Correa said. “Once we know the truth you will see that my government has very little involvement in wrong-doing.”