President Rafael Correa has replaced Ecuador’s military high command in a case involving a real estate deal being investigated by the the country’s attorney general. Among those replaced on Friday was the head of the joint chiefs, Gen. Luis Garzon.
Before the firings, retired officers supported by the command, had demanded the return of $41 million taken by the government from a military pension fund. The government says the money, from the sale of park land in Guayaquil, was obtained fraudulently.
According to the attorney general’s office, the military retirement fund sold 220 hectares to the Ministry of the Environment in 2010 for $48 million when the the value of the property was assessed for $7.3 million. The military officers who handled the transaction dispute the assessment and deny any wrong-doing.
Yesterday morning, members of the joint command held a press conference attacking the removal of the funds from the pension fund. “We have a legal and moral obligation to defend the the Social Security fund of the Armed Forces,” Garzón said. “The money rightfully belongs to members of the armed forces and their families.”
An hour after the press conference, Correa announced the “early retirement” of the military commanders on his Twitter account.
Correa said that the “people of Ecuador pay $500 million a year in the military fund. How will the removal of $41 million cause the fund to fail.”
Later, Correa added that the $41 million above the assessment of the sale property’s value was “stolen from the national treasury.”