QUITO – President Rafael Correa announced Friday the dismissal of Ecuador’s military brass in response to their criticism of an order for the armed forces pension fund to refund $41 million to the Environment Ministry in connection with a land transaction.
“With much regret, I have had to relieve the High Command ahead of schedule,” Correa said on Twitter. “We will not allow anyone to manipulate the troops or the country.”
The Attorney General’s Office determined in November that the Environment Ministry drastically overpaid the armed forces pension fund, ISSFA, for a parcel of land in the coastal city of Guayaquil.
The ministry handed over more than $48 million for land valued by the municipal government at only $7.3 million.
Based on the finding from the AG Office, the government ordered the Finance Ministry to reclaim $41 million from ISSFA and return those funds to the Environment Ministry.
The order angered a group of retired military officers who expressed fear that the transfer would undermine Issfa.
On Friday, the Armed Forces Joint Command said in a statement that the transfer of funds would violate Article 372 of the constitution.
“The resources of Military Social Security belong to the soldiers on active and reserve duty and to their families, so their protection and preservation are an obligation of the state,” the Joint Command said.
Correa reacted sharply on Twitter.
“Military pensions are GUARANTEED by art. 370 of the Constitution and by ISSFA itself, today more solvent than ever,” the president tweeted.
“The Ecuadorian people know that the government pays ISSFA around $500 million annually. How will $41 million ‘break’ ISSFA?” Correa added.
Military salaries and pensions have increased by between 400 percent and 900 percent in recent years, government spokesman Patricio Barriga said.
Late Friday, Correa issued an executive order designating a new head of the Joint Command and new chiefs of the army, navy and air force.