President Rafael Correa’s legal secretary, Alexis Mera, says that the $41 million over-charge by armed forces pension fund (ISSFA) for a public park in Guayaquil, was an “honest mistakes.”
Last week, when Correa ordered the return of the $41 to the national treasury, he suggested that fraud might be involved. His comment followed the announcement by the Attorney General’s office that it was conducting an investigation of the land deal.
Following the announcement of the over-payment, Correa also dismissed the military joint chiefs of staff, effective immediately, The chiefs were scheduled to be replaced in April as part of the annual rotation.
The Attorney General said the ISSFA charged Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment $48.1 million in a 2010 sales for property that became Semenes Park in Guayaquil. According to the AG, the land had been appraised at only $7.3 million.
Retired military officers, backed by active commanders, disputed the assessment and said those involved in the sale did not have that information when the deal was completed.
Mera agreed, saying “There were errors in good faith, I have to admit.” Without offering details, he added that the “situation surrounding the sale was complicated.” Mera said, however, that the deduction of the $41 from the ISSFA pension account was done properly.
Organizations of retired military personnel have protested in Quito over the removal of the money, saying it reflects prejudice against Ecuador’s armed forces on the part of the government. The organizations are also protesting prosecution of former officers on human rights violations alleged to have occurred in the 1980s against what the government then called “enemies of the country.”