Included in a large Chinese shipment of earthquake relief supplies last month were 10,000 AK-47 assault rifles and ammunition. Puzzled relief workers in Manta decided not to hand them out to those left homeless by the April 16 earthquake and called Ecuador’s defense ministry instead.
On Friday, the ministry said the weapons were included in the relief shipment by mistake and were the result of a 2014 agreement with the Chinese government and the defense ministry. The ministry said the shipment was a gift from China.
In an attempt to dispel charges of a “secret deal,” the ministry said, “The government has not invested a single penny for this order.”
Earlier, the independent Ecuador Civil Resistance Front demanded that the government explain the arms shipment, suggesting it was included among earthquake relief supplies to avoid public notice.
At first, top military officers said they knew nothing about the shipment, a statement later retracted by Defense Minister Ricardo Patiño who cited the 2014 military aid accord with China.
The Civil Resistance Front also quested the fact that Ecuador’s military does not use the AK-47, but German-built Heckler and Koch rifles, and is not equipped to provide training for use of the AK-47.
Francisco Drouet, who directed the military’s joint chiefs of staff’s operations until February, said that the defense ministry had failed to inform the top brass of the Chinese arms shipment. Meanwhile, Salvador Quishpe of the left-wing Pachakutik indigenous party and prefect of Zamora-Chinchipe Province, warned that the government may be planning to create “Correísta brigades” modeled on those supporting the Maduro government in Venezuela.
“We must be vigilant about whose hands these weapons end up in,” he said.