QUITO – The Ecuadorian police dismissed a senior officer who was under investigation for passing secret information to the United States Embassy in Quito, officials at the Interior Ministry told Efe on Friday.
The firing of Maj. Manuel Silva, who was head of the now-disbanded Special Investigations Unit, or UIES, was decided Thursday night in the Council of Police Generals in view of his being absent without leave for nearly a month, the daily El Comercio said without revealing its source.
Silva was accused of having illegally given classified information to officials at the U.S. Embassy, who were subsequently expelled by Quito once the disclosures became known.
The major has also been the focus of a controversy for having charged ex-members of the government with presumably maintaining relations with Colombia’s FARC guerrillas.
Silva went into hiding in February after learning he was under investigation. While underground, he fed the Ecuadorian media stories about the erstwhile officials’ purported contacts with the FARC.
According to El Comercio, Thursday night the mayor’s defense counsel said that he had not been officially notified of the Council of Generals’ decision, but let it be known he would present an appeal.
Interior Minister Gustavo Jalkh said in February that the investigation of Silva and three police captains for leaking sensitive intelligence would serve as a springboard for restructuring the force’s special investigative units, especially given suspicions of U.S. interference with those units.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced in early February that he was expelling Armando Astorga, the attache of the U.S. Homeland Security Department at the embassy in Quito, who sent a letter to the national police terminating Washington’s logistical support for the law enforcement agency.
Astorga’s letter followed a shakeup in the leadership of the national police’s Center for Anti-smuggling Operations, or COAC.
Correa said that unbeknownst to Ecuador’s government, U.S. officials had routinely played a role in selecting the top officers of the COAC and other elements of the police force under the terms of “verbal” cooperation agreements.
Offended by Astorga’s letter, Correa ordered the police to return all equipment they had received from the U.S. Embassy, which mainly consisted of computers.
When it subsequently emerged that classified information had been left on the computers handed over to the embassy, the president demanded an investigation. EFE