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Corruption exposed: US meddled in Ecuador’s election, using Julian Assange as bargaining chip

A former minister of Ecuador testified that the US government conspired with a right-wing political party to run a disinformation campaign against the leftist Correísta movement, backing a millionaire banker for president in exchange for giving up journalist Julian Assange, who had asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Ecuador US election meddling Correa Lasso Capaya Assange
Ecuador's former President Rafael Correa, journalist Julian Assange, ex energy minister Carlos Pareja Yannuzzelli, and current President Guillermo Lasso (from left to right)

Ecuador’s former energy minister testified that the US government conspired with a right-wing political party to run a disinformation campaign against the leftist Correísta movement of ex President Rafael Correa.

He said that US “federal agents” pledged to help “influence” the 2017 presidential elections and support the candidacy of conservative millionaire banker Guillermo Lasso in exchange for the promise to turn over journalist Julian Assange, who had been given asylum by Correa and was stuck living for years in Ecuador’s embassy in London.

The former energy minister, Carlos Pareja Yannuzzelli, had fled a corruption investigation in Ecuador and was living as a fugitive from justice in the United States in late 2016 when he was offered large sums of money and US government protection in return for reading a carefully prepared “script” that made false accusations of corruption against Correa and his Vice President Jorge Glas, who was later imprisoned on highly dubious charges.

Pareja testified that the federal agents also coerced him into making false accusations against a US citizen, so they could justify their involvement in the Ecuadorian case. This led to the US national being arrested and imprisoned for three-and-a-half years.

Lasso ended up losing the 2017 election (before going on to win the 2021 election), but his victorious opponent, Lenín Moreno, later betrayed Assange anyway, letting British authorities raid the embassy, imprison the WikiLeaks journalist, and prepare to extradite him to the United States.

Carlos Pareja Yannuzzelli Ecuador

Ecuador’s former energy minister, Carlos Pareja Yannuzzelli, in 2016

The revelation of this extraordinary example of Washington meddling in another country’s election came from one of the top officials in Ecuador’s oil industry.

Carlos Pareja Yannuzzelli had served as head of the state-owned oil company Petroecuador, and later became Correa’s minister of hydrocarbons.

In 2016, Pareja was named in the Panama Papers leak of offshore bank accounts, and he was forced to step down as energy minister. In 2017, he was sentenced to several years in prison on charges that he used his position in the state oil industry to enrich himself and his friends.

The name Carlos Pareja Yannuzzelli has become practically synonymous with corruption in Ecuador, so much so that he is commonly referred to as “Capaya” (an abbreviation of his name).

On November 9, 2022, Correa published on Twitter a written testimony that Pareja had provided from prison in May 2019. The affidavit, which is signed by Pareja and includes his thumbprint, exposes the scandalous US government-backed plot to meddle in Ecuador’s 2017 presidential elections to hurt the left wing.

US intelligence-linked right-wing Ecuadorian politician uses corrupt US asset to accuse Correa of corruption

Rafael Correa shared the scandalous 2019 testimony in response to evidence-free accusations of corruption that Pareja Yannuzzelli made against the former president in a politicized hearing organized by the National Assembly’s auditing committee on November 9, 2022.

This committee is run by Fernando Villavicencio, a notorious right-wing Ecuadorian political operative who is closely linked to US intelligence agencies.

Today Villavicencio is a member of the National Assembly, but he first made his name as a high-profile opposition activist during Correa’s two presidential terms from 2007 to 2017.

Villavicencio was a key figure in the lawfare (judicial warfare) campaign against Correa. He ran a viciously anti-Correísta media outlet, which – with funding from the US government – consistently spread thinly sourced rumors of corruption about the leftist president.

In 2010, Villavicencio even played an important role in a failed coup attempt against Correa.

Villavicencio enjoyed a brief moment in the limelight in 2018, when he collaborated with British newspaper The Guardian in co-authoring a highly dubious smear piece against Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks adamantly insisted the article was false and created a legal fund to sue The Guardian.

In the tweet below, Villavicencio (on the right, with the glasses) boasts of working with The Guardian reporters Luke Harding and Dan Collins on the allegedly fake story:

By sharing Pareja’s incriminating 2019 affidavit on Twitter, Correa was highlighting Villavicencio’s hand behind the November 9, 2022 hearing, which clearly aimed to demonize the leftist former president and disparage Correísmo, which still remains the most popular political movement in Ecuador.

Ecuador’s ex energy minister details US-backed campaign to help the right wing in the 2017 elections

The devastating May 2019 affidavit demonstrates that Carlos Pareja Yannuzzelli (Capaya), who is still in prison on corruption charges, is a hired gun who will happily spread false claims to undermine Correísmo.

Capaya became a household name in Ecuador back in 2016, when he was serving as minister of hydrocarbons. In April of that year, international media outlets published the Panama Papers, a massive leak of information about offshore bank accounts.

Pareja Yannuzzelli’s name appeared in the Panama Papers, setting off a scandal in Ecuador. Correa was still president at the time, and in May, Capaya was forced to resign and was replaced with a new energy minister.

The Correa government immediately began investigating Capaya’s web of corruption, and found his family had stashed millions of dollars in bank accounts in Panama.

Yet while he was being investigated, Capaya managed to flee Ecuador in September.

Capaya opened his testimony noting that, by December 2016, he “was in the United States in a complicated situation.”

While in Miami, Florida, the Ecuadorian fugitive from justice was contacted by César Monge Ortega, the president of the right-wing political party CREO.

Ecuador’s current president, the conservative multimillionaire banker Guillermo Lasso, is a leader of CREO. Monge was one of Lasso’s closest allies, referred to in the Ecuadorian media as “the right hand of Guillermo Lasso.” He served as the president’s minister of government until Monge died from cancer in July 2021.

Cesar Monge Ortega Lasso CREO Ecuador

Ecuador’s minister of government and former CREO leader, César Monge Ortega, before his death in May 2021

Back in 2016, Monge asked Capaya to join a smear campaign against the presidential candidate who would represent the leftist Alianza País party in the upcoming 2017 elections, Correa’s former Vice President Lenín Moreno.

“He offered me an important sum of money and federal North American protection,” Capaya wrote.

At the time it was widely assumed, even by Correa himself, that Moreno would continue his socialist political program.

Moreno did run on a left-wing presidential campaign, but after entering office, he did a political 180. Moreno turned hard to the right, repressing, imprisoning, and exiling Correísta politicians.

He also stabbed Julian Assange in the back, reversing Correa’s pledge to protect the WikiLeaks publisher. The Moreno government had given the Australian journalist Ecuadorian citizenship in 2017, but in April 2019 it issued a “temporary suspension” of Assange’s new nationality – an action that Ecuadorian experts say had no legal basis.

Then, Moreno even let British authorities violate his own country’s sovereignty by storming the embassy – which constitutes Ecuadorian territory under the Vienna Convention in international law – in order to arrest Assange.

Correísta politicians have alleged that Moreno was bribed and/or blackmailed by the US government, as he obediently fulfilled all of Washington’s foreign-policy goals, collaborating closely with the Donald Trump administration, removing Ecuador from the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA) and Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and even recognizing US-appointed coup leader Juan Guaidó in Venezuela.

Few people would have expected back during Ecuador’s presidential election in 2017 that Moreno would go on to govern like this. The country’s right-wing opposition was concerned that Lenín Moreno (who, after all, was named after the Russian revolutionary) would continue Correa’s leftist program.

So in December 2016, César Monge Ortega, the leader of Lasso’s right-wing CREO party, tried to recruit Carlos Pareja Yannuzzelli (Capaya) for the disinformation campaign against Correa, Moreno, and their Alianza País party.

Capaya wrote in his 2019 testimony that he initially declined the offer, but that Monge was persistent.

“Monge insisted to me that I could contact North American federal agents that were working with CREO for a long time, and they would provide me with protection and stability in the United States,” Capaya said.

“He assured me that the American Democratic Party was committed to backing Lasso’s presidential candidacy in exchange for Julian Assange, to expose his link with the current president of the United States,” Capaya continued.

This comment suggests that Democratic Party leadership had been convinced that US President Donald Trump was somehow connected to Assange, a baseless conspiracy theory that was fueled by Fernando Villavicencio’s extremely questionable report in The Guardian.

Capaya went on: “Finally, one day Monge visited me with [US] federal agents and together they guaranteed me protection in the United States in exchange for my participation in the smear campaign against Alianza País in order to influence the presidential elections in Ecuador in 2017.”

Guillermo Lasso Ecuador president

Ecuador’s current president, Guillermo Lasso

Capaya said that, after this in-person meeting with the US federal agents, he accepted their offer.

His role was to make outlandish accusations Correa (who was still president at the time), his government, and his party.

“They gave me a script created and prepared by Fernando Villavicencio, who according to Monge had been contracted by the party CREO,” Capaya said.

He continued: “They told me that in order for there to be an agreement, I had to follow the script to a T. To this end, we met various times in Miami between December 2016 and January 2017. These videos subsequently were made public on social media after February 2017.”

Capaya stressed that “a big part of the script” was dedicated to accusing Correa and his other Vice President Jorge Glas of corruption.

“They made me name third parties that I don’t know,” Capaya recalled. He wrote that the US “federal agents” heavily pressured him to name people such as Frank Roberto Chatburn Ripalda, a Miami-based financial advisor with dual US and Ecuadorian citizenship.

“Despite that I told them on more than one occasion that I never had any relation with him and that he was not being investigated or processed in Ecuador, they expressly told me that in order for there to be an agreement it was required to mention Chatburn, because he had US nationality and with that the federal agents could justify their participation and initiate actions against him in the United States,” Capaya said.

The US Justice Department subsequently charged Chatburn with money laundering and imprisoned him for three-and-a-half years.

Chatburn was not the only one who ended up burned by Washington.

Capaya concluded his testimony lamenting that Monge, his CREO party, and the US federal agents later abandoned him when Moreno won the presidential election.

They failed to fulfill their side of the promise. Capaya was later captured in Ecuador, and put behind bars, where he remains today.

Corrupt Ecuadorian official conspired with Miami-based oligarchs who stole millions from their people

Yet the scandal goes even deeper. Monge was not the only right-wing opposition figures whom Capaya was conspiring with.

As a fugitive from justice living in Miami in late 2016 and early 2017, Capaya also met with right-wing multimillionaire bankers from Ecuador’s notorious Isaías family.

The Isaías Brothers, William and Roberto, are ferociously anti-Correa oligarchs who fled their country of birth and moved to the United States, with millions of dollars of stolen money, during Ecuador’s economic crash of 1998 and 1999.

This massive crisis, known as the infamous “feriado bancario,” bankrupted millions of working-class Ecuadorians, depleting their savings by devaluing the national currency, the sucre, with runaway hyperinflation.

The banker who helped cause this meltdown had been affectionately known as Ecuador’s “super minister of the economy,” and had been lauded by the international financial press: none other than Guillermo Lasso, an ardent neoliberal Chicago Boy who now serves as president.

Lasso and his banker friends, who had held their illicit wealth in dollars, became millionaires thanks to the feriado bancario. Meanwhile, the sucre became so worthless that Ecuador surrendered its monetary sovereignty and adopted the US dollar as its official currency. This remains the case today.

From Miami, the Isaías Brothers have also used their stolen money to fund the campaigns of US politicians – both Republicans and Democrats – including Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and even former President Barack Obama.



  1. Anniecer

    2022-11-13 at 14:21

    Excellent explanation! It is sooo important that people around the world knows what’s happening in Ecuador! #SOSEcuador

  2. Anthony Samaniego

    2022-11-15 at 07:57

    Thank you Benjamin Norton. I know you and other independent journalists/media outlets have covered Ecuador from time to time, though I have been waiting for dedicated independent journalists like yourself to expose specifically the dirty campaign against Correa accusing him of “corruption” when its the very corrupt leaders from Ecuador persecuting him. Thank you again Ben. Ecuadorians like me are thankful for your sympathy to the country!

  3. Michael L

    2022-11-29 at 20:21

    I feel as though I have awakened from a long long sleep induced by the opiate of North American Imperialism propaganda. Benjamin Norton is too be commended for this eye opening piece of investigative journalism, shinning a spotlight on the inner working of deep state.
    What saddens me is how millions of hard working Ecuadorian people suffered at the hands of greedy bankers, oligarchs, and corrupt politicians.

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