Leaked videos about Petroecuador scandal could destabilize presidential race
With only two weeks to go before Ecuadorians choose a new president, a series of leaked videos threaten to rearrange the country’s political landscape. In the videos, former Minister of Hydrocarbons Carlos Pareja claims that Vice President Jorge Glas “knew everything” about corruption occurring at state-owned Petroecuador.
The videos are of an interview conducted in Miami with Pareja by reporters from the Guayaquil newspaper El Expreso. The newspaper says it had nothing to do with the leaks.
In addition to being President Rafael Correa’s vice president, Glas is vice presidential candidate on the Alianza País ticket with Lenin Moreno.
The national election to determine the next president and National Assembly, is Sunday February 19.
In one of the videos, Pareja is seen taking a lie detector test in which he says all decisions at Petroecuador were made with the consent of Vice President Jorge Glas. The videos were posted Friday on social media by an anonymous user going by the name “Capaya Leaks” in reference to Pareja’s nickname.
Pareja fled Ecuador for Spain in August after the Petroecuador bribery scandal was exposed in the Panama Papers. Pareja’s name appeared with 200,000 others for using foreign bank accounts, allegedly to deposit bribe money. Pareja is currently hiding out in Miami.
Moreno is not mentioned in any of the videos and Pareja has so far produced no solid evidence implicating Glas beyond his word.
The videos set off a frenzy of accusations and rebuttals on Friday as opponents scrambled to take advantage of the news and President Rafael Correa engaged in damage control. Correa claims the videos are a plot to destabilize the country and to damage the presidential prospects of Moreno and Jorge, as well as end the 10-year dominance of his Alianza País political party.
Correa released email correspondence between himself and Pareja purporting to show Pareja admitting to taking bribes and begging for forgiveness.
Correa is also accusing Pareja of working with Roberto and William Isaias to influence the president election. The Isaias are accused of stealing tens of millions of dollars during Ecuador’s 1999 banking crisis and are currently living under refugee status in Miami.
Thirty-nine former Petroecuador officials have been arrested as part of the $12 million bribery scandal investigation. The bribes were allegedly paid by contractors during construction work at Ecuador’s oil refinery in Esmeraldas. Pareja was personally accused of taking more than one million dollars and a warrant it out for his arrest.
In the video, Pareja says that people close to Glas, including a former top aide and Petroecuador’s current boss, Pedro Merizalde, are being protected from prosecution. “It’s clearer than water,” Pareja says in the video, in which he appears to be speaking to two journalists from a Guayaquil newspaper. “And who protects him? Jorge Glas.”
Polls show the Moreno-Glas presidential ticket with a slight edge, but not with enough support to avoid an April runoff election with one of two conservative challengers.