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Ecuador defense minister killed in copter crash

File photo shows Ecuador's defense minister Larriva in Quito
Ecuador's defense minister Guadalupe Larriva is seen in this Jan. 3 file photo. Reuters file
/ Source: msnbc.com news services

Defense Minister Guadalupe Larriva and three other people died Wednesday when two helicopters collided in the Pacific port city of Manta, an Ecuadorean government spokeswoman said.

“We can confirm the death of the minister, of one of her children and two pilots in the crash of two helicopters,” Monica Chuji told The Associated Press.

Larriva was named as Ecuador’s first woman defense minister by newly inaugurated President Rafael Correa, taking office on Jan. 15.

A university professor and leader of the country’s small Socialist party, she was also one of only a few civilians to hold the post.

She had promised to strengthen presidential control of military ranks, improve salaries for the armed forces and make the promotions system more transparent in a country where the military had helped oust three presidents in the last decade.