Ecuador defense minister steps down after top brass fired

President Rafael Correa (R) stands next to Fernando Cordero, then president of the National Assembly, in Quito on August 10, 2011 (AFP Photo/Rodrigo Buendia)
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Quito (AFP) - Ecuador's Defense Minister Fernando Cordero resigned Tuesday, after top military brass were fired for criticizing military benefit cuts by President Rafael Correa.

"I have decided to resign as defense minister," Cordero told a briefing after the president slashed Armed Forces Social Security benefits, while insisting they were "guaranteed."

Cordero, who had held the post since September 2014 and considered progress on the issue a key priority, also said he hoped Correa would pick a replacement that "can keep making progress on that issue."

On Friday, Correa fired his top military commanders, accusing them of interfering in "administrative matters."

"Just try to find another country where military officers go around making statements on administrative matters. It pains me but I have had to dismiss the high command," the leftist leader wrote on Twitter.

The dispute appeared to stem from statements by the head of the joint chiefs of staff, General Luis Garzon, criticizing the government's intervention in a real estate deal between the army pension fund and the environment ministry.

Correa's administration slapped a $41 million charge on the pension fund for allegedly overpricing a parcel of land in southwestern Ecuador.