QUITO – Ecuador’s Defense Minister Patricio Zambrano and Interior Minister Cesar Navas presented their resignations to President Lenin Moreno due to the crumbling of security on the Colombian border, the government said on Friday.
The announcement was made by Communications Secretary Andres Michelena, who has lately been the most visible spokesperson of the Ecuadorean government.
Confirmation of the resignations comes a day after the time Moreno had set for both ministers to oversee the capture of alias “Guacho,” a FARC dissident believed responsible for a dozen attacks in the northern part of the country that began with a car-bomb explosion last Jan. 27.
Guacho is also accused of kidnapping and murdering in captivity a team of jounalists from the Quito daily El Comercio.
Last week Moreno demanded that the ministers of defense and the interior assume their responsibilities, and announced that if they didn’t bring in Guacho within 10 days, he would expect them to “step aside.”
The National Communications Secretariat (Secom) said Friday that the replacements for Navas and Zambrano will be announced almost immediately.
Since last March 26, when the team of journalists was abducted, Navas has been leading the case, which ended in tragedy with the assassination of journalist Javier Ortega, press photographer Paul Rivas and driver Efrain Segarra.
Furthermore, a scant four days after the murder of the press team was confirmed, Navas reported another kidnapping, this time of an Ecuadorean couple, Oscar Villacis and Katty Velasco, also on the border with Colombia.
Upon confirming the kidnapping of Velasco and Villacis, Navas presented a video of the couple, sent by their captors, in which they pleaded that the government help set them free.
The video reached the government through an open communication channel with Guacho, according to Navas, who this week said there has been no contact with the Ecuadorean couple’s kidnappers for several days.
The day before, faced with the possibility that the ministers would leave the government for failing to meet the deadline set by Moreno, family members of the press corps said that their resignations would not exempt them from doing their duty.
“Leaving public office does not excuse them from their responsibilities, nor is it a formula for keeping silent,” they said in a statement, in which they also asked for details about the process used in the attempt to rescue the hostages from the kidnappers, along with details of the efforts being made by Ecuador and Colombia to recover the bodies.