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Ecuador to Name New Defense Minister

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By DOLORES OCHOA
The Associated Press
Saturday, January 27, 2007; 1:18 AM

CUENCA, Ecuador -- Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said Friday that he will seek to name another woman as defense minister following the death of Guadalupe Larriva.

Larriva, the country's first female defense minister, and her 17-year-old daughter Claudia Avila were killed when two helicopters collided Wednesday during maneuvers to mark the 53rd anniversary of army aviation in Ecuador at a base near Manta. A colonel, three captains and a lieutenant also died in the crash.

"We know that we are not going to find anyone to fill the void that Guadalupe has left behind, however, we will look for another Ecuadorean woman to take over the post of defense minister," said Correa, who attended Larriva's funeral in the southern city of Cuenca.

Larriva, 50, and her daughter were buried amid military honors and the red flags of Larriva's Socialist Party. A teacher by vocation who rose through her party's ranks and served in congress, Larriva had been the first defense minister to have never served in the military.

Correa has ordered a special commission to investigate the collision, including outside experts from the makers of the French-designed Gazelle helicopters involved the crash and from Chile's air force.

Vice President Lenin Moreno has 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."

On Friday, government spokeswoman Monica Chuji said the country was going through a "delicate" time and advised against any speculation, saying "it causes damage."

Correa appointed seven women to his 17-member Cabinet, saying he wanted to promote gender equality in his South American nation.


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