Cuenca airport expects international certification in 2023; In Brazil, Lasso welcomes Lula presidency; Increasing activity at two volcanoes raises concerns

Jan 2, 2023 | 22 comments

Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar Airport will receive certification for international flights in February or March, according to airport management. The airport has passed the most critical tests for certification and the last stages of the review should be completed within three months, says Ítalo Mogrovejo, director of Infrastructure Operations at the airport.

The first international flights from Cuenca will be regional, to Colombia and Peru, Mogrovejo says. “Currently, there is not sufficient demand for flights to the U.S. and Europe but this could change as the city grows,” he says.

There will be limitations of the type of aircraft allowed to operate internationally in Cuenca, says Mogrovejo. “Our altitude and the length of the airport runway [1,900 meters] impose some restrictions we will have to consider,” he says. “The good news is that many of the newer aircraft, such as Air Bus class aircraft, can operate safely under our conditions and currently service the national routes.”

President Guillermo Lasso greets new Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva following Sunday’s inauguration.

Part of the international certification process requires runway improvements that will be carried out in the first half of 2023. Mayor Boris Palacios announced in November he has secured financing from the Development Bank for Latin America for the project, which includes widening the runway and installation of new lighting and radar systems.

According to Mogrovejo, the airport has the physical space for migration and customs control as well as for conducting agricultural and anti-drug inspections. “We are in the process of security scanning and computer equipment to satisfy requirements,” he says.

International air service from Cuenca is not new, Mogrovejo points out. “Until 2002, we offered service to several locations in Peru, including Lima and Cusco. Since then, however, certification requirements have changed and we must meed the new standards.”

In Brazil, Lasso welcomes the Lula presidency
Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sworn in as president on Sunday, and in his first address expressed optimism about plans to rebuild while pledging that members of outgoing Jair Bolsonaro’s administration will be held to account.

Ecuador President Guillermo Lasso, who attended the ceremony in Brasilia, said he looked forward to working with Lula, calling him a “man with Brazil’s best interests at heart.” Lasso, who admitted having a “difficult relationship” with Bolsonaro, said Ecuador and Brazil have several major issues to discuss, including combating international drug trafficking and protection of the Amazon jungle.

Lula is assuming office for the third time after thwarting far-right incumbent Bolsonaro’s re-election bid. His return to power marks the culmination of a political comeback that is thrilling supporters and enraging opponents in a fiercely polarized nation.

“Our message to Brazil is one of hope and reconstruction,” Lula said in a speech in Congress’ Lower House after signing the document that formally instates him as president. “The great edifice of rights, sovereignty and development that this nation built has been systematically demolished in recent years. To re-erect this edifice, we are going to direct all our efforts.”

Sunday afternoon in Brasilia’s main esplanade, the party was on. Tens of thousands of supporters decked out in the red of Lula’s Workers’ Party cheered after his swearing in. They celebrated when the president said he would send a report about the prior administration to all lawmakers and judicial authorities, revoke the far-right leader’s “criminal decrees” that loosened gun control, and hold the prior administration responsible for its denialism in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Increasing activity at two volcanoes raises concerns
Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute says growing activity at the Sangay and Cotopaxi volcanoes “is being monitored closely.” Since Thursday, 85 explosions have been recorded at Sangay in Morona Santiago Province while Cotopaxi has experienced dozens of earthquakes and increased gas and ash emissions.

“The activity at both volcanoes has increased in recent days and is on an upward trend,” the Institute said Sunday. “We are concerned but not alarmed.”

At Sangay, the Institute says “moderate lava flows are occurring on the flanks of the mountain while the emission cloud has reaches 2,000 meters above the crater.” Farmers to the west of the volcano have been alerted for ashfall. Located in a remote area on the Cordillera Real, 95 kilometers northeast of Cuenca, the Institute says Sangay does not pose an immediate threat to human life.

Although the activity at Cotopaxi, the world’s tallest active volcano at 5,897 meters (19,347 feet), has not produced lava flows or lahars, the Institute says it poses a greater threat due to its location near Quito. “We have recorded 16 earthquake clusters since Thursday and these are increasing in intensity,” the Institute said in a bulletin. “We do not believe there is an imminent threat of eruption but we have advised nearby communities to remain on alert, with emergency plans ready if needed.”