The Joint Command of Ecuador’s Armed Forces says it has requested information from the U.S. Embassy about 18 officers who have had their U.S. visas revoked since June. Michael Fitzpatrick, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, referred to the revocations in an August 15 interview with Vistazo magazine.
“We have asked for the details of these cases and will act accordingly when we receive them,” said Nelson Proaño, Chief Military Commander. “We are currently conducting several internal investigations regarding possible corruption within our ranks and welcome information from the U.S. government that will help in the effort. It is critical to the integrity of the Armed Forces that we remove and punish those involved in corrupt activities.”
In 2021, the U.S. revoked more than 100 visas of Ecuadorian military and police personnel and their families. Although the U.S. State Department did not officially release information about the cases, Proaño said that the command received reports of U.S. investigations informally. “We responded to the information we received and will do it again in the new cases.”
In his interview, Fitzpatrick said that the 18 officers who lost their visas were “high-ranking officers in the Navy” who were involved in drug trafficking activities. “Without commenting on specific cases, we will continue to crack down on illicit financing, freezing and seizing stolen assets, denying or revoking visas, using targeted anti-corruption sanctions and criminal and civil enforcement actions against those involved in corruption,” he said.
Ecuador Naval Commander Brúmel Vázquez announced two weeks ago that an officer and seven enlisted men have been discharged for “possible drug-related activities” in the Galapagos Islands and said four others remain under investigation. He said that criminal charges against the men are pending.
Ecuadorians hold their government in low regard
A composite poll conducted by San Francisco University in Quito found that public approval of the government has fallen to all-time lows. Pollster Francis Romero said the latest numbers reflect an “extreme distrust” for all branches of government.
The August poll numbers give President Guillermo Lasso a 25.8% positive rating, down from 29% in May. The National Assembly fare much worse with only 8.3% of respondents saying it is doing a good job. The national judiciary fared only slightly better at 12.16%.
“These results are distressing since they indicate a disconnection between the people their leaders,” Romero said. “Unfortunately, they give no indication of who people prefer to run the country, either in the executive or legislative functions. You might expect the president’s low approval numbers to support followers of former president [Rafael] Correa but they are given even lower approval, being associated with the Assembly.”
Another indication of the “disconnect” between the people and the government, according to Romero, is the fact that 78% of respondents in one poll said the government should have done more to keep the highways open during the recent indigenous strike. “Yet, in the National Assembly, members are criticizing the Interior Minister for overreacting and doing too much to stop the protests. People wanted him to do more.”
New U.S. ambassador to Ecuador named
President Joe Biden has nominated Arthur Brown to succeed Michael Fitzpatrick as U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador. Following the expected confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Brown will assume his new duties by the end of the year.
Brown has been stationed in Zimbabwe since 2020 where he heads the the United States Agency for Development (USAID) and serves as assistance ambassador at the embassy in Harare. Previously, he served in the U.S. foreign service in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, and Namibia.
Brown, who holds degrees in business administration from Johns Hopkins University and the National War College, speaks French and Spanish, in addition to English. He began his public service career in the United States Peace Corps.