The corruption scandal involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and a dozen Latin American countries deepened further with the detainment of and subsequent asset-freezing injunction for Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas on October 2.
The vice president is among 18 people officially accused of involvement in corruption schemes by Ecuador’s attorney general’s office. Officials presented the accusations of criminal association to Ecuador’s National Court of Justice (NCJ) on September 29. Responding to this, the NCJ judge ordered the immediate arrest and preventative custody of Glas preceding a trial. The investigation includes Glas’s uncle, Ricardo Rivera, and previous Comptroller General Carlos Polit.
The attorney general named Glas for alleged involvement in two corruption cases surrounding Odebrecht during his tenure as leader of the Coordinating Ministry of Strategic Sectors. Former Odebrecht Director in Ecuador Jose Conceicao Santos claimed the company paid $32 million in bribes in the past decade to secure infrastructure contracts. Responding to the accusations, Glas insisted on his innocence in a video comment, saying, “Innocent people have no reason to flee.” The vice president also denounced Santos as an “immoral person.”
The vice president’s arrest comes a month after President Lenin Moreno stripped Glas of almost all his power, stating that his vice president failed to understand that commitment to the Citizen’s Revolution, a left-wing social project, “involves serving the country in a united effort.” Moreno and Glas won the presidential elections in April for the Alianza Pais party. Largely seen as the protégé of former-President Rafael Correa, Glas labeled the presidential decree “clear retaliation” for criticizing Moreno’s policies. Glas proclaimed himself still the president of all Ecuadorians, promising to continue fighting corruption and working to eliminate poverty.
Glas has yet to be charged, and exactly who is to blame for the political turbulence remains unclear. However, the implications of the Odebrecht corruption schemes go far beyond current affairs in Ecuador. The company admitted to paying almost $800 million in bribes concentrated in Latin America. Odebrecht collected $3.3 billion in revenue and devastated political parties and careers, along with the public’s confidence in leaders involved in the schemes.
In 2016, former-President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff was forced to step-down from office, and protests have called for current-President Michel Temer to resign after tapes recorded him encouraging bribes. Former-President of Peru Alejandro Toledo was arrested along with a governor for accepted millions in bribes from Odebrecht. Investigations on whether President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos’ 2014 campaign received inappropriate donations from Odebrecht are ongoing. In May, prosecutors arrested almost a dozen current and former top government officials in the Dominican Republic for connections to $92 million in bribes. In Guatemala, protesters have demanded the resignation of their president and other politicians involved.
Corruption scandals are hardly new problems for Ecuador; the country ranks 146 out of 180 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index of countries in 2009 and holds a score of 2.2 out of ten, with zero being highly corrupt. While the future of Moreno’s administration remains unknown, further destabilization is probable as more details around one of the world’s largest bribery rings continue to be exposed.