Ecuador’s President orders probe in the death of his Defense Minister

Guadalupe Larriva was the first female defense minister of the country and was killed in the collision of two helicopters after only nine days in office.

After only nine days in office, the first female Defense Minister of Ecuador died in a strange mid-air collision of two helicopters on Wednesday night that also killed her daughter and five members of the military. Leftist President Rafael Correa, who has recently clashed with Congress over the call on a referendum to rewrite the constitution and his controversial program of radical reforms, has ordered his government to form a commission to investigate the case.

Minister Guadalupe Larriva, a former teacher and senior official of a socialist political party supporting Correa, died in the crash in a Pacific coastal province west of Quito, presidential spokeswoman Monica Chuji said.

According to the first public reactions, the government believes that Mrs. Larriva died in an accident. "It appears to have been an unfortunate accident, but so that there is no doubt the government has formed a special commission to oversee the investigation”, Correa told reporters in the port city of Manta.

Ecuadorean Vice President Lenin Moreno said he received a report from the military saying it was an unfortunate accident, "but under these circumstances we usually call for a commission to investigate." The commission will include outside experts from the makers of the French-designed Gazelle helicopters involved the crash as well from Chile's air force.

However, other voices claimed for a deep investigations on the death of the Ministers, as Larriva was resisted by the Armed Forces. "We ask the government will carry out a deep investigation," Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea told a television station.

Vice President Lenin Moreno said the helicopters were performing a night flight test, "and in a bad maneuver it appears that the blades collided and the helicopters fell to the ground." No top ranking commanders were on board the helicopters, Moreno said.

Larrivia was one of the most popular members of Correa’s cabinet and had promised to strengthen presidential control of military ranks and make the promotions system more transparent. She was ruling a key office as this South American country has gone through a deep political crisis that toppled three presidents in one decade.

President Correa traveled to the area where crash took place and faced the questions of the journalists. There, US firefighters stationed at an air base in Manta had already cleaned the area of the accident. They rushed to the scene of the crash, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov