President Rafael Correa named Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino as Defense Minister on Thursday, replacing Fernando Cordero, who resigned earlier in the week. The change is the result of ongoing antagonism between the government and the military.
Cordero, who received a “no confidence” vote from retired and some active military brass three weeks ago, angered military officers last week by ordering a reduction in military officer pensions that he said were the highest of all government retirees.
The issue that sparked the investigation into military pensions was a 2010 land sale by the military retirement fund to the Ministry of Environment. The government claims that the fund made a $41 million windfall in the sale and returned the money to the national treasury.
An unsigned letter from a group of military officers, retired and active, expressed disappointment at the the appointment of Patino, citing his lack of military leadership experience. “We consider it a lack of respect to Ecuador’s armed forces that he has no record of military administration,” the letter said. Patino is the seventh defense minister in the nine years of the Correa presidency.
Patino has been highly visible as foreign minister for his outspoken defense of Ecuador’s decision to grant exile to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy.
Cordero, a former mayor of Cuenca, has served in four cabinet level posts since Correa took office.