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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ecuador's Supreme Court seeks criminal defamation case against president

IHT, 23 August, 2007

QUITO, Ecuador: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked lawmakers for permission to try President Rafael Correa on criminal defamation charges brought by a former government official.

If Congress grants the request — by the required two-thirds majority — and Correa is convicted, he could face up to two years in prison.

Former Economy Ministry adviser Quinto Pazmino filed the charges in June after Correa called him a "swine" and "mentally unbalanced." Pazmino was fired for leaking a video showing then-Economy Minister Ricardo Patino meeting with investors, discussing a plan to manipulate bond prices.

In February, Patino had said Ecuador lacked funds to make a US$135 million (€99 million) scheduled payment on Global Bonds 2030 before a Feb. 15 deadline. But two days later the government said it would make the payment on time, raising suspicions that officials were trying to devaluate the debt by sparking sharp fluctuations in bond prices.

The defamation case against Correa "has fundamental problems," said Alexis Mera, a legal adviser to the president. "From a professional and legal point of view, I'm not giving it much importance."

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