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Ecuadorean IOP Fellow Accused of Corruption

By David M. Debartolo, Crimson Staff Writer

When he led a study group at the Institute of Politics (IOP) this spring about the choices and decisions he made during his two-year tenure as president of Ecuador, administrators praised visiting fellow Jamil Mahuad as open and accessible to tough questions from students.

But some in Ecuador, where Mahud was ousted in a January 2000 military coup, believe the former president still has something to hide.

Ecuador's highest court issued warrants for the instructor's arrest last week, charging that he committed unconstitutional and possibly corrupt acts by freezing Ecuador's bank accounts during the recent Latin American financial crisis.

The head of Ecuador's Supreme Court ordered an investigation into charges that Mahuad's decisions, which he defended as necessary to stop capital from leaving the impoverished nation, were made to benefit bankers and contributors to his 1998 presidential campaign.

But Mahuad, who touted his Harvard degree in public administration during the campaign, remains in Cambridge despite calls for him to return to Ecuador to face charges.

Conflict and Crisis

Mahuad, the Heffernan Visiting Fellow, left Ecuador shortly after the coup and has been working at the Kennedy School since April. In the spring he led an IOP study group titled "Conflict, Crisis and Leadership in Latin America." He is working on his own projects in Cambridge over the summer, according to Jennifer Phillips, the coordinator of the visiting fellows program.

Phillips said Mahuad has been willing to address questions about his tenure as president from students in his study group, and would often meet with students in his office to discuss the class.

Mahuad was no stranger to the Kennedy School when he arrived in the spring--his ties with Harvard go back more than a decade. After winning a Mason fellowship through the Kennedy School, he earned a master's degree in public administration in 1989.

Mahuad was a part of the celebrations of the Mason program's 40th anniversary in April. At the time of the celebration, Dean of the Kennedy School Joseph S. Nye Jr. praised Mahuad, saying he exemplified the ideals the school tries to instill in its graduates.

Phillips said the IOP hired Mahuad because of his first-hand experience in government.

"We bring in people involved with politics and public service to teach students what it's like," she said.

And while it is unclear whether Mahuad will continue teaching, Phillips said he was under consideration to stay at the University in the fall.

Harsh Words

But some in Ecuador are incensed that Harvard is employing Mahuad, and alums there say the Harvard name has been sullied by harboring an alleged criminal.

"Is there anyone interested in not allowing a fugitive of Ecuadoran justice to teach at Harvard?" wrote Humberto X. Mata '90, a member of the liberal reformist movement Fuerza Ecuador, in an e-mail message to The Crimson and University officials.

Harvard alums in Ecuador say that during the 1998 presidential race, Mahuad flaunted his Harvard credentials in an attempt to convince Ecuadoreans that he was capable of alleviating the economic crisis plaguing the country.

"As a Harvard alumnus I have to deplore the manipulation and improper use that President Mahuad made of his Harvard ties," wrote Rodolfo A. Baquerizo '85, who was a board member of Ecuador's central bank from 1992 to 1996, in an e-mail message.

"He arbitrarily used them as proof of his competence and as shield of his abuses. Thanks to Mahuad, Harvard's name has become almost a joke in Ecuador, a situation that is aggravated by the fact that Harvard is providing shelter to the worst president we ever had."

"His short but inept and corrupt tenure as Ecuador's president has embarassed the Harvard alumni community here," Mata said.

In Defense

Mahuad issued a press release Tuesday responding to the court's order to arrest him if he enters the country. After describing the hyper-inflation, capital flight and other financial conditions that led to his decision to freeze banking assets--the act that some say exceeded his constitutional authority--Mahuad denied any wrongdoing.

"The government decided to freeze banking and time-deposit accounts in order to stop the bleeding," Mahuad said. He claimed that the decision caused the sucre to rebound and halted the hyper-inflation that had been plagued the country.

Mahuad, who is not speaking to the media, did not address the allegations of corruption directly in the press release.

"Of course I affected the lives of many people with these decisions, but my main goal was to prevent the wealthy people from taking money out of the country," he said. "Of course I made mistakes...All of our actions were in good faith. I never intended to damage anybody."

In the press release, Mahuad said that he has three lawyers working on revoking the order for "preventive custody," as the arrest order is formally called.

"I would like the opportunity to respond in the appropriate way," he said.

Some claimed that Mahuad's effort at conciliation rang hollow.

"He should return to defend himself, and allow the Ecuadoran courts to determine his innocence or culpability," Baquerizo wrote.

"I think he should return voluntarily," Mata wrote. "At least, the U.S. should pull his visa."

Ecuador has a bilateral extradition treaty with the U.S. and may try to force his return to Ecuador. But former Ecuadorean government figures have often been granted political asylum in other countries due to fears that they would not receive a fair trial in Ecuador.

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