By Liam Higgins
President Lenin Moreno summoned the government’s top officials to Carondelet Palace Monday following the weekend escape of Fernando Alvarado, communications secretary to former president Rafael Correa. Accused of 11 counts of embezzlement and mishandling of federal funds, Alvarado removed a court-ordered electronic shackle Friday night and disappeared.
Although he claimed via social media to have left the country, there is no record at international airports or border crossings of his exit. In a WhatsApp message to friends, Alvarado said he has been granted political asylum in another country but he did not provide details.
Calling Alvarado’s escape a set-back in Ecuador’s fight against corruption, Moreno ordered a “full and complete review” of how the escape occurred and how future escapes can be prevented. A number of employees of the country’s ECU911 system, in charge of tracking Alvarado’s movements through the electronic shackle, have been fired. Other officials, including at least three at the Ministry of Justice, have resigned as a result of the incident.
In a three-hour meeting with the ministers of justice, interior and exterior, the attorney general, the president of the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control and president of the National Assembly, Moreno demanded that those responsible for Alvarado’s escape be disciplined.
Earlier, Attorney General Paúl Pérez said he believed that Alvarado had “inside” help in his escape.
One of the government’s first reactions to Alvarado’s escape was to move former Vice President Jorge Glas from a prison in Quito to one in Latacunga, 90 kilometers to the south.
“We cannot fight corruption if those being investigated are allowed to leave the country,” Moreno said. According newspaper El Comercio, at least 10 high-ranking former officials accused of corruption are living outside of the country, most of them in the U.S. and Spain.
Pérez said police are “scouring the country” in search of Alvarado and says he believes he may still be in the country. “Where will he be given political asylum?” he asked. “Maybe Cuba or Venezuela? North Korea or Yemen? He has very few options and I believe we will capture him even if he has left the country.”
Moreno said those attending Monday’s meeting will convene every two weeks to track progress of efforts to improve security.