Ecuadorian President threatens media outlet that revealed alleged corruption within his administration

A local outlet published details of a report from the Anti-Narcotics Police of Ecuador, revealing alleged links between the Lasso government and mafia, drug trafficking and corruption

February 16, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso threatened to fight the La Posta media outlet, after it published a report that revealed the alleged links between his government and the Albanian mafia. Photo: Guillermo Lasso/Twitter

On Tuesday, February 14, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso threatened the journalist team of the digital media outlet La Posta, after it published a series of documents and audio recordings linking government officials and the president’s brother-in-law, Danilo Carrera, with alleged acts of corruption and drug trafficking.

During a message to the nation on Tuesday night, Lasso criticized the publication of a confidential report, without clarifying that it was archived by the Prosecutor’s Office after a court order due to the “lack of merits” to continue with the investigation.

“A digital media has insinuated that the President is allegedly involved in a supposed network of corruption. These characters have attacked my integrity and that of my family. And I am not going to allow [that],” said Lasso.

Lasso also claimed that “some sensationalist acolytes have said, invented, published, broadcast any absurd cartoon” to obtain perks, adding that “my patience has a limit and their impudence is unlimited.” 

“The 15 minutes of fame of these entertainment mercenaries has come to an end,” said Lasso. He announced that he would “fight those who want to violate freedom of expression.”

He claimed that his government was honest and that there was no corruption network or plot within his administration. Regarding his brother-in-law, he said that he acknowledges that he “might not have been suspicious enough to detect dishonest people who wanted to use him,” adding that no one from his family has ever participated in the decisions of his administration.

La Posta rejected President Lasso’s statements. “We reject the policing, intimidating, authoritarian and misguided attitude of the President of the Republic, Guillermo Lasso, who has used a national network to discredit our work and, at the same time, openly threatens us in order to stop our investigations of corruption in his government. La Posta ratifies to the country that it will stand its ground and that it will continue to publish all the findings of the El Gran Padrino case,” said the media outlet in a statement.

On Monday, February 13, La Posta reported details from an investigative report prepared by the Anti-Narcotics Police of Ecuador between May and July 2021, which revealed the alleged links of Rubén Chérres, who has been identified as a friend of Danilo Carrera, with members of the Albanian mafia. Chérres is a close ally of the national government and is already being investigated for an alleged corruption scheme in public companies. Carrera does not hold any position in the government, but due to the collaboration of his friend Chérres, he manages appointments to high positions within public companies and ministries, and decides which private companies work with the State in exchange for bribes.

According to the report, Chérres and Carrera have influence over key institutions, such as the Customs service and the Ministry of Energy. The report revealed that the Albanian mafia has chosen Ecuador as a strategic point for drug trafficking operations, while its members disguise themselves under the facades of big businessmen and launder assets and promote arms and human trafficking in the country. The report also revealed that according to a transcript of a telephone call, Chérres admitted that he and his associates had contributed at least USD$1.5 million to Lasso’s presidential campaign in 2021.

After sharing the details of the report on their platforms, members of La Posta presented the documents which serve as evidence to support their journalistic work to Ecuador’s National Assembly during a session investigating Carrera.

On Tuesday, Lasso’s Agriculture and Livestock Minister Bernardo Manzano resigned from office. Manzano’s name appeared in a series of intercepted calls with Chérres. He denied that he was given the position through Chérres, although he admitted having given him his resume months before being appointed, and argued that his departure is to avoid any suspicion that affects the president.

The scandal further weakens the Lasso government at a time when the opposition-dominated National Assembly is investigating an alleged case of corruption involving his administration and public energy companies. On Tuesday, Lasso was summoned to appear before the parliament to speak about the case. However, he did not attend and excused his absence, citing problems with his agenda.

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