PANAMA CITY – Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa said on Thursday that a key ally’s conviction this week on corruption charges was a case of political persecution and part of a broader strategy to wipe out progressive forces in Latin America.
Correa commented during a visit to Panama about Vice President Jorge Glas, who in August was stripped of his official duties after accusing his boss – another Correa protege and the current president, Lenin Moreno – of manipulating economic data.
“The conviction is a vulgar and cruel political persecution riddled with legal aberrations. The world must react. Jorge Glas is totally innocent. Go look for a single piece of evidence against him. It doesn’t exist. Innocent people are being convicted without evidence,” the head of state, who governed from 2007 until May of this year, told reporters at the venue of a Central American Integration System (SICA) summit near Panama City.
Glas, who like Moreno served as vice president under Correa, was convicted Wednesday of accepting bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and sentenced to six years in prison.
He became the highest-ranking officeholder to be sentenced in a massive international corruption probe that has implicated several Latin American leaders.
“It’s all a political persecution to illegitimately and undemocratically wrest control of (Ecuador’s) vice presidency. Based on what’s happened to Vice President Glas, with no evidence, we can all be victims of this injustice,” Correa said.
He told reporters that Glas’ conviction was part of a “regional strategy and said the “judicialization of politics is the new way to persecute Latin America’s progressive leaders.”
“It’s the same thing they did to (former Brazilian President) Dilma (Rousseff), to (former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio) Lula (Da Silva) and (ex-Argentine President) Cristina (Fernandez). First there’s the media bombardment. They destroy your reputation, they make you lose support, and when they try you for whatever reason, no one comes forward to defend you because they’ve already taken away your political support,” Correa said.
Rousseff was removed from office via impeachment last year for violating budget laws, while Lula is facing several corruption trials stemming from the massive Car Wash probe into a corruption scheme centered on Brazilian state oil company Petrobras.
Fernandez has been indicted for treason for allegedly covering up Iran’s purported involvement in a deadly 1994 bombing a Jewish community center and for corruption related to the sale of dollar futures contracts and the awarding of public-works contracts.
Correa said those behind this allegedly conspiracy against the region’s progressive leaders are conservative forces “who were defeated over these past 10 years.”
Glas was found guilty of receiving $13.5 million in bribes from Odebrecht in connection with five contracts awarded to the Brazilian company between 2012 and 2016.
Odebrecht and its petrochemical unit Braskem pleaded guilty late last year to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world to win business.
As part of their settlement with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland, announced on Dec. 21, 2016, those companies agreed to pay a combined penalty of at least $3.5 billion to resolve the charges.
Also Thursday, Correa slammed his former vice president and successor, Lenin Moreno, accusing him of betraying his policy agenda and being a “professional imposter who was never with us and has hated us for a long time.”
Moreno distanced himself from Correa in late July, accusing his predecessor in a speech of having left the country in a “critical” financial situation.
The president then stripped Glas of his official duties after the latter said Moreno was providing false economic data aimed at tarnishing the legacy of Correa’s Citizens’ Revolution.