Army joins fight against drug trafficking; Bill would allow foreign banks; Iza again threatens ‘another October 2019’; Ecuador donates vaccines to Peru

Sep 20, 2021 | 11 comments

As part of his plan to attack the illegal drug trade, President Guillermo Lasso is deploying thousands of military personnel in coastal cities in Guayas, Manabí, Santa Elena and Esmeraldas Provinces, as well as in Los Rios Province where the government says large-scale money laundering operations are centered. Several hundred troops are also being sent to Sucumbíos Province in the Amazon, where Lasso says new drug transport routes are opening.

Deployment of Army personnel to combat what the government says is a drug trafficking crime wave began last week in coastal cities.

“Under orders from the president, we are joining the battle against drug transport and trafficking as well as organized crime,” says General Luis Burbano, chief of the Armed Forces Operations. “The objective is to reduce drug-related murders on our streets and violence in our prisons.”  He said more than 7,000 troops began taking up their new posts in 23 towns and cities on Friday.

In addition to patrolling high-crime neighborhoods and operating a radar system that will detect drug transport aircraft, the military will provide aerial surveillance of the coastline, says Defense Minister Fernando Donoso. “Drug operations have increased exponentially in the past three years because they faced very little resistance,” he said. “That is about to change.”

He added that immediate goals include stopping the entry of Mexican drug cartels in Ecuador and reducing a wave of murders, many of them committed hit-man style, in Guayaquil, Manta and Esmeraldas.

Conaie’s Iza repeats threat of ‘another October 2019’
Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) Leonidas Iza has repeated his warning that “another October 2019” is possible if President Guillermo Lasso does not agree to his demands. Much of the country was paralyzed in October 2019 by an indigenous-led strike that resulted in six deaths and hundreds of injuries.

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Iza insisted that Lasso meet with him and other indigenous leaders October 1 at the Presidential Palace and said there “could be trouble” if Lasso refuses.

“We have been ignored since this government took office in May and our patience will only last so long,” Iza said Saturday. Conaie is demanding the reinstatement of gasoline and diesel subsidies, the withdrawal of Lasso’s proposed labor law changes and blanket amnesty for those arrested during the 2019 protests.

Ecuador donates vaccines to Peru
Ecuador has donated 336,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Peru as part of the two countries’ “friendship alliance.” Due to the success of the country’s vaccination program, Ecuador’s Ministry of Health said it had excess doses of AstraZeneca that were shipped to Lima on Thursday. “Recognizing the struggle that Peru faces, we are happy to share excess vaccines with our friend and neighbor,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry added that the donation does not affect Ecuador’s ongoing vaccine program. “We have more than a sufficient supply to meet the needs of our residents and more doses are en route,” it said.

Assembly bill would open Ecuador to foreign banks
National Assemblyman Darwin Pereira of the Pachakutik party has introduced legislation that would allow foreign banks to operate in Ecuador. He says change is needed to increase competition within the banking industry and reduce interest rates for borrowers. In addition, the proposed legislation would limit private banks to no more than 10 percent banking asset share within the country.

“For too long, several large banking corporations have enjoyed a monopoly in the country, which has kept interest rates and the cost of services high,” Pereira says. His proposal would establish a commission to set limits on what banks can charge for services, including account mainenance and credit and debit card fees.

Currently, Banco Pichincha holds almost half of all banking assets in the country.

Police officer dies of carbon monoxide
Paramedics from the Cuenca fire department were unable to save the life of police officer Friday night after he was overcome with carbon monoxide fumes in his patrol car. A second officer was removed from the car and is in critical condition at Vicente Corral Moscoso Hospital.

A police spokesman said the deaths were accidental, the result of a faulty exhaust system in the patrol car. He said the officers were overcome by gas as they were observing traffic at an intersection in the Baños parish, west of Cuenca.

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