Armed Forces await Lasso’s anti-terrorist orders; Final impeachment report headed to full Assembly; Labor Day weekend tourism numbers disappoint

May 3, 2023 | 5 comments

The command of Ecuador’s Armed Forces says it stands ready to implement more forceful measures against drug cartels and the criminal gangs that support them. President Guillermo Lasso said Tuesday, he will issue a decree this week designating criminal organizations as “terrorists,” authorizing the use of lethal force by the military and police against them.

The designation was recommended last week by the Public Security Council (Cosepe) which claimed that “terrorist elements” in the country pose a threat to public safety and to the structural integrity of the government.

President Guillermo Lasso is expected to issue a presidential decree authorizing lethal force against criminal gangs this week.

According to new Secretary of Citizen Security Wagner Bravo, gang violence that left nine dead in Esmeraldas and 10 in Guayaquil in the past week justify strong measures to combat a rising time of gang crime. Bravo said that he and president are working out final details of the anti-gang decree before making it officials.

“We are being very careful to put limits on the new role of the military and National Police to respect human rights,” Bravo said. “On the other hand, the new plan will mandate whatever force is needed to combat organized crime in Ecuador.”

Bravo added that Ecuador will not become “another El Salvador,” insisting that those accused and captured under the new decree will be treated fairly with oversight by the court. “New judicial rules will ensure, however, that dangerous criminals are not released from detention,” he said.

Commanders of the Armed Forces say they are in consultation with Lasso and his staff to make sure its operations comply with the constitution and are operationally feasible.

Final impeachment report headed to the full Assembly
The National Assembly’s Oversight Commission will deliver its impeachment report detailing the charges against President Guillermo Lasso by Friday or Saturday. The report is the final step prior to a debate and vote that could impeach and expel Lasso from office.

Commission president Fernando Villavicencio said he will present the report but believes it shows “no strong evidence” for impeachment. Lasso is accused of embezzlement for allowing contracts for the rental of ships between the Ecuadorian Oil Fleet (Flopec) and Amazonas Tankers to continue in force and for signing a new commercial agreement in July 2022.

Villavicencio claims that supporters of impeachment, Assemblymembers Viviana Veloz, Pedro Zapata, Mireya Pazmiño and Rodrigo Fajardo, lied to the Assembly and the Constitutional Court in presenting their case against the president.

“The big surprise is that the July 2022 contract does not exist,” Villavicencio says. “This means the Assembly members proposing the trial were not honest,” he said. “At the jurisdictional level, they committed procedural fraud.”

Labor Day weekend tourism numbers disappoint — again
Hotel and restaurant owners and tour officials say the recent Labor Day weekend failed to match the tourism numbers of a year ago. “Because of road conditions we continue to suffer,” said Cuenca hotelier Matias Grijalva. “My hotels managed 60% occupancy but overall, it was 50% in the city,” he said. “These numbers are not sustainable for me personally or for the industry as a whole. We continue to pressure the government to fix the transportation disaster.”

Juan Pablo Vanegas, president of the Chamber of Tourism of Azuay, says highway conditions are entirely to blame for the poor tourism numbers. “Our members in the hotel and restaurant business reported a record number of cancellations for the weekend. Travelers are not confident the highways will be open and don’t to risk being stuck in closures.”

He said that during the 2022 Labor Day weekend Cuenca hotels reported 80% occupancy.


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