Former VP Glas seeks asylum at Mexican embassy; Tram records 20 accidents in 2023; Cancer hospital ends referrals; Ecuador wins case against U.S. firm

Dec 27, 2023 | 0 comments

Former Vice President Jorge Glas has officially requested political asylum in Mexico after taking up residency at the Mexican embassy in Quito last week. The former vice president faces corruption charges for mismanagement of reconstruction funds in Manabí Province following the 2016 earthquake. An arraignment hearing in the case is scheduled for January 5 in Manta.

His defense team claims Glas is being “politically persecuted and that he has suffered an illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional attack” by prosecutors. The former vice president was released from prison earlier this year on humanitarian grounds but faces another year behind bars from an earlier corruption conviction.

Cuenca’s tram system has one the lowest accident rates per kilometer in the world. It reports 20 accidents in 2023, most of them minor. (El Mercurio)

The Mexican ambassador says that Glas is a “guest” at the embassy while his case is being reviewed by the diplomatic staff.

Prosecutors in the “Manabí Reconstruction” case say they will present charges against Glas before National Court Judge Judge Luis Rivera next week. They will claim that millions of dollars of earthquake reconstruction funds, managed by Glas and his staff, are unaccounted for.

Tranvía records 20 accidents in 2023
Cuenca’s tranvía system reports 20 collisions between the tram and motor vehicles in 2023, according to Marcelo Toral, system director. He says all accident were the result of driver error.

The tranvía has priority throughout its entire route from the Rio Tarqui platform in the southwest to the industrial park in the northeast, Toral says, with all traffic lights calibrated to allow safe passage for train units. “Because of this, there have been no accidents caused by tram operator error,” he said Friday. “All accidents recorded during the tranvía’s three-year history have been caused when motor vehicle drivers did not respect red lights or when they made illegal turns onto the train tracks.”

According to Toral, drivers who caused accidents have paid for all repairs to the damaged tram cars, with the average cost ranging from $1,500 to $3,000.

From the beginning of operations in September 2020 through 2022, Cuenca’s tranvía has one of the lowest accident rates per kilometer of all similar light rail systems in the world. Alstom, the French manufacturer of the tram, said Cuenca ranked second among 155 light rail systems that it monitors for fewest accidents.

Cancer hospital stops accepting public referrals
Cuenca’s cancer hospital, Solca, announced Thursday it is no longer accepting new public health and Social Security patients. Solca director Raúl Alvarado said the termination of services was due to lack of payment from the government.

“It is important that the people of Cuenca and southern Ecuador understand that the Public Health Ministry and IESS health service have not paid their bills to Solca, which is a private service,” Alvarado said. “The small amount of funds they send us are not profits for Solca, they are returns of the money that Solca invests in treating the patients they refer. The nonpayment situation has reached a critical point.”

According to Alvarado, this is the third time in the last 18 months Solca has been forced to suspend service for patients from public institutions.

According to the Ministry of Finance, the public debt to Solca is about $15 million for District 6, which includes Cuenca.
On Friday, the Health Ministry district office said it has scheduled talks with Solca for Wednesday and hopes to have the “payment issue resolved” later in the week.

Court denies oil company claim against Ecuador
Ecuador’s public oil company, Petroecuador, will not have to pay U.S. refinery contractor Worley Parsons International $198 million Worley claims is owed for termination of contracts. An international arbitration tribunal in New York ruled that Petroecuador was justified in its actions.

WorleyParsons sued for alleged unpaid amounts related to contracts signed with Petroecuador and with the public company Refinería del Pacífico. The suit focused on contracts at the Esmeraldas Refinery, the Pacific Refinery, the Bajo Alto Natural Gas Liquefaction Plant and the Monteverde Liquefied Petroleum Gas Plant.

The lawsuit dates to February 2019 and was filed under the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty.

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