The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Pilot error is cited in death of Ecuadorean official

By Chris Kraul, Times Staff Writer

LA Times, January 25, 2007

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Preliminary evidence points to pilot error as the cause of a midair helicopter crash Wednesday night that killed Ecuadorean defense minister Guadalupe Larriva, her daughter and five military personnel, officials in that country said Thursday.

The death of the Cabinet member, a confidante of newly inaugurated President Rafael Correa, has stirred the already tense atmosphere surrounding the president's struggle with congress over his agenda to "re-invent" Ecuador.

Radio talk shows Thursday and scattered demonstrators raised suspicions that the accident was an attack to prevent Larriva from taking control of the armed forces. Ecuadoreans have been apt to consider conspiracy theories since President Jaime Roldos was killed in a plane crash in May 1981 under suspicious circumstances.

But Adrian Bonilla, a political scientist at a Quito graduate studies center known by its Spanish initials FLACSO, said such notions are being put forth by "extreme leftists. ... There is no evidence so far that permits an hypothesis of a conspiracy."

Larriva, 50, was sworn in as Ecuador's first female defense minister by Correa after his inauguration Jan. 15. A native of Cuenca, Larriva was formerly president of Ecuador's Socialist Party and head of the nation's teachers union. Like Correa, she was an admirer of Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chavez.

Another helicopter collided with the one in which Larriva and her daughter were riding on their return to the Manta military base, following an aerial tour over the city, said a high-ranking Ecuadorean military officer who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak.

"She was going along on the sortie to see how beautiful it was to fly at night," the officer said. "She was on the way back to the base to get her flight back to Quito when the crash happened." Larriva's daughter died of injuries en route to a hospital.

Correa declared three days of mourning and ordered an investigation. Funeral services for Larriva, a widow who left two surviving children, were held Thursday at the Eloy Alfaro Military College in Quito. She was to be buried Thursday in Cuenca.

The crash added an ominous note to a tense week of politics in Quito. Correa suffered a setback Tuesday when the nation's electoral tribunal refused his request to authorize a March plebiscite on whether to elect a constitutional assembly to rewrite Ecuador's laws. The majority of judges said only the congress can approve such a vote. Correa had hoped to go around the congress to get the plebiscite approved.

Correa's proposal for a constitutional assembly is critical to a campaign promise he made to reform Ecuador's party system and to concentrate more power in the presidency.

But opposing congressional leaders have threatened to put the plebiscite proposal in the "deep freezer" unless Correa gives sitting legislators representation in the constitutional assembly. Correa said making such a deal would compromise his principles.

Polls show Correa and his policies enjoy 73 percent approval among Ecuadorean voters, Bonilla said.

"The scenario we are facing is one of institutional rupture," Bonilla said. "There is a total standoff because the sides are not negotiating."

No comments:

Post a Comment