National Assemblywoman Sofia Espin was dismissed from the National Assembly Tuesday on charges of attempting to change a witnesses’ testimony in a kidnapping case involving former president Rafael Correa.
Espin’s dismissal, with 94 of the assembly’s 137 votes, is seen as a victory for President Lenin Moreno who had urged legislators to “do their job to cleanse the country of corruption.” Earlier, it appeared that efforts to dismiss Espin might fail.
The final vote came despite procedural challenges by Citizens Revolution assembly members who support Correa.
The assembly also voted to dismiss Alianza Pais member Norma Vallejo for allegedly interfering in a federal prosecutor’s investigation.
According to the charges, Espin asked former government intelligence officer Diana Falcón to change her testimony that Correa had masterminded the 2012 kidnapping of former assemblyman Fernando Balda in Bogota, Colombia. Espin visited Falcón in the women’s prison in Quito in September with Correa’s attorney Yadira Cadena.
Balda was a one-time Correa supporter turned political enemy. The kidnapping was stopped by Colombian police although Balda was later extradited back to Ecuador to serve a prison sentence for his alleged involvement in a 2010 Quito police strike.
Correa has been ordered to return to Ecuador to face kidnapping charges filed by Balda but has so far refused. The former president is living in Belgium, his wife’s home country.
Officially, Espin’s dismissal is based on an “incompatibility of functions.” The charges claim her actions “harmed the independence of government powers by committing acts aimed at obstructing the judicial function of a criminal case of national importance involving former President Rafael Correa.”
Members of the Citizens Revolution delegation walked out of the assembly following the vote. In a press conference, they claimed the cases against Espin and Correa are “political persecution.”