DOJ won’t release names of Ecuador officials implicated in Odebrecht case

Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

The U.S. Department of Justice will not provide U.S. lawmakers with the names of Ecuadorian officials who might have been implicated in the sweeping Odebrecht corruption case — as long as the investigation is active.

In a statement Thursday, Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the DOJ had denied her Jan. 6 request to make the names public, citing the department’s policy of not discussing “ongoing investigation[s]” or publicly naming “unindicted co-conspirators.”

The request is politically charged, as the South American nation heads into a tight April 2 presidential runoff that will determine the successor of President Rafael Correa and where corruption allegations have taken center stage.

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“Without the disclosure of the names of the Ecuadorian officials involved, ‘the responsible wrongdoers’ will not be brought to justice under the Correa regime,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “The regime’s corruption and lack of an independent judiciary are well documented and it cannot be relied on to investigate itself.”

In December, Odebrecht, the region’s largest construction company, pleaded guilty in U.S. courts to paying almost $800 million in bribes in order to secure contracts in Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

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The case has jolted the region. In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos, along with some of his chief political rivals, are fighting allegations that their campaigns received Odebrecht funding.

In Ecuador, authorities have not provided names about who might be involved. But Correa has said the case was being manipulated by U.S. authorities to try to skew the election, where his hand-picked successor, Lenín Moreno, is running in a tight race against former banker Guillermo Lasso.

Ros-Lehtinen said that as long as “Ecuadorian officials are allowed to continue avoiding justice, corruption in Ecuador will persist, U.S. national security and commerce will suffer, and the Ecuadorian people will not enjoy their basic human rights.”