Fuel subsidies are back on the table in Assembly talks; Ecuador extradites ‘El Gringo’ to Colombia; Attorney General welcomes U.S. assistance

Jan 24, 2024 | 0 comments

President Daniel Noboa said Tuesday he is open to discussing fuel subsidies as part of a package to increase government revenue. “I think it is possible to reduce the subsidy by as much as 25% without affecting lower-income people,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “I have made it clear, there are limits to the size of the reduction under the current economic situation, but we are certainly willing to talk with Assembly members about it.”

Carlos Arturo Landazuri, alias “El Gringo,” leader of the Oliver Sinisterra Brigade, was turned over to Colombian police Monday at the Rumichaca International Bridge. He was considered Colombia’s “most wanted” man.

A reduction of subsidies is one of the proposals made by National Assembly members, many of whom are opposed to Noboa’s plan to increase the VAT from 12% to 15%. Other proposals under discussion are a tax increase on private bank profits and an increase of the ISD tax on money sent out of the country.

According to the Ministry of Finance, fuel subsidies, including gasoline, diesel fuel and LP gas, cost the government $4.5 billion to $5 billion annually.

On Saturday, president of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) Leonidas Iza warned that any reduction of gasoline and diesel subsidies will send indigenous protesters into the streets. “We will mobilize across the country, as we have in the past, to show our opposition to another attack on the people of Ecuador,” he said.

Noboa responded to Iza, saying: “It is clear that we are not pleasing Mister Iza, and it is also clear he does not understand the government’s position that we will do nothing to harm our most vulnerable population.”

Noboa reminded Iza that it is illegal to stage mass protests during periods of national emergency. “If he attempts to do it, he will have to face the army.”

Ecuador extradites ‘El Gringo’ to Colombia
Colombia’s “most wanted” man was handed over to Colombian police Monday at the Rumichaca International Bridge in Carchi. Carlos Arturo Landazuri, alias “El Gringo,” is the leader of Colombia’s Oliver Sinisterra Brigade, a criminal organization operating near the Ecuador border in southwest Colombia. In recent years, the brigade admitted kidnapping and murdering three journalists from a Quito newspaper as well as setting off at least six bombs in Esmeraldas Province.

According to Ecuadorian police, Landazuri’s arrest in Imbabura Province followed a three-month investigation that determined he was moving frequently between Ecuador and Colombia.

Colombian police say Landazuri commands “several armed terrorist units” that operate in Nariño, Putumayo and Cauca departments, as well as Esmeraldas Province in Ecuador. “We believe Oliver Sinisterra and “El Gringo” are responsible for more than 200 murders in Colombia and Ecuador,” Colombian police said in a statement following the extradition.

In addition to the murders of the journalists, Oliver Sinisterra took credit for a bombing that destroyed a police headquarters in Esmeraldas in 2018.

Attorney General welcomes U.S. help
Attorney General Diana Salazar met Tuesday with U.S. Southern Command General Laura Richardson and Presidential Advisor Christopher Dodd to discuss the fight against drug traffickers and corrupt government officials.

“We welcome assistance from the U.S. and can use their years of expertise in confronting the narco terrorists,” Salazar said. “They have provided information that has led to a number of arrests in Ecuador’s campaign against drug gangs and corruption. Since this is an international battle, we need the assistance of all countries affected by the illegal drug trade.”

During their visit, Richardson and Dodd promised more help and announced that a team from the FBI is headed to Ecuador to assist in various investigations.

In an interview with CNN following the meeting, Salazar said assistance from the U.S. is crucial in locating and arresting criminal organization leaders. “We have had success capturing the gunmen and the errand boys of the gangs, but we need to capture more of those giving the orders.”

In particular, Salazar said arresting and prosecuting those behind the murders of former presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio and Guayaquil prosecutor César Suárez are top priorities. “The U.S. government has provided excellent leads in these cases and plan to join our investigations,” she said.

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