President Lenin Moreno temporarily dismissed Vice-President María Alejandra Vicuña on December 3 after reports purportedly revealed that she had embezzled funds from political supporters and other sources, at about 1,2 million USD between 2009 and 2011. Moreno appointed former General Secretary of the Presidency, José Augusto Briones, as her replacement. In the meantime, the General Attorney pursues an investigation on corruption charges against Vicuña, who claims the opposition and the media are behing the pressing of charges. Subsequently, on December 5 Interpol rejected a request from the Ministry of Justice for a red notice against former President Rafael Correa, who is currently residing in Belgium. Correa is accused by Ecuador of being involved in the kidnapping of a former congressman in 2012.
Both judicial processes come against the backdrop of political disputes between Correa and Moreno surrounding corruption accusations. Moreover, Vicuña is the second vice-president to be removed from office during Moreno’s presidency, after Jorge Glas was removed in December 2017 following an investigation connected to the Odebrecht corruption scandal. While claiming his innocence, Glas denounced political persecution against him with the full backing of Correa. The processing of Vicuña, considered an ally of Moreno, is likely to undermine the president’s popularity, while Interpol’s refusal to issue an arrest warrant against Correa could give critics of the president fuel for accusations that the latter is illegitimately targeting the opposition