Government raids Odebrecht offices but political opponents cry ‘cover-up’

Dec 25, 2016 | 3 comments

Despite its raid on Odebrecht offices Friday in Guayaquil, opponents of Ecuador’s government claim that the action is little more than a diversion from a long-standing pattern of corruption.

Presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso.

Friday’s search came days after the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that Odebrecht had paid $33.5 million to Ecuadorian officials between 2007 and 2016 as part of an international bribery scheme.

“The people’s trust with this government is gone,” said presidential candidate Patricio Zuquilanda. “This is a pattern that has continued throughout the administration of (President Rafael) Correa. He should resign now.”

Another presidential candidate in the February national election, conservative Guillermo Lasso, agreed that Correa bears responsibility in the Odebrecht scandal. “This is happening on his watch and it is hard to believe he knows nothing about it, just as it is hard to believe he knew nothing about the Petroecuador bribery. The raid in Guayaquil is a smokescreen and a joke.”

During the raid authorities seized materials including folders, laptops and external hard drives as part of an open investigation requested by the Ecuadorian government.

President Rafael Correa — in power since 2007 — expelled the Brazilian petrochemical and construction giant in 2008 for irregularities in the development of a hydroelectric plant. Odebrecht returned to Ecuador in 2010, however, after Correa was pressured by the Brazilian government.

On Wednesday Odebrecht and its petrochemical affiliate Braskem agreed to pay $3.5 billion to the United States, Switzerland and Brazil to settle a vast international bribery case.

Ecuador has asked those three countries for information to “investigate further,” according to the statement.

Odebrecht pleaded guilty to bribing government officials and political parties to the tune of $788 million to secure business on three continents — mostly in Brazil, but also 11 other countries in Latin America and Africa.

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