Government and Conaie begin talks amid tensions; Seven-province drug money laundering operation busted; Quito airport named best in South America
Negotiators from the government and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities begin talks today in Quito to resolve differences that led to the 18-day strike earlier this month. The talks, to be moderated by the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic church, are scheduled to last 90 days.
Talks begin just days after President Guillermo Lasso claimed the strike was funded by drug money, a charge angrily refuted by Conaie. “Such careless, inflammatory language puts in question the government’s commitment to finding solutions,” said strike leader and Conaie President Leonidas Iza.
Although the two sides have agreed to discuss a total of 10 topics, they agree the major issue is providing relief to the poor population for fuel costs. To end the strike, Lasso reduced the cost of regular gasoline by 15 cents but said reaching an agreement to target price reductions to those who need them is essential. According to the Ministry of Finance, the government spends more than three billion dollars a year on subsidies for gasoline and LP gas.
Among other topics to be negotiated are private debt relief from public and private banks; improvements to the public health system; expansion of major development projects; employment and labor rights; energy and natural resources; funding for higher education; market controls; and law enforcement.
Political analyst and former presidential adviser Daniel Crespo called Lasso’s claim that some strike leaders received money from Colombian drug lords “extremely unhelpful even if it partly true.” It is crucial, he said, that talks begin on a positive footing. “It may make no difference in the end if the government negotiates in good faith, but the timing of the comment was poorly conceived.”
Crespo said it is “well-known” that indigenous communities near the Colombian border have ties to drug producers. “On the other hand, communities in other parts of the country are not connected to these elements.”
National money laundering operation busted
National Police carried out 36 raids in seven provinces Monday night and Tuesday morning targeting an alleged money laundering operation. Police seized dozens of computers and boxes of documents in the operation prosecutors say involved more than $40 million in drug money. Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said that six arrests were made during the raids “with many more anticipated.”
The raids were conducted in Pichincha, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, El Oro, Azuay, Orellana and Manabi. According to police, two offices in Cuenca were targeted.
In addition to records, police also confiscated firearms, ammunition, passports, cell phones and credit cards. “This is a major step in the fight against drug trafficking and corruption,” Carrillo said. “It is just the beginning and we expect to find additional laundering operations connected to formal and informal banking offices.”
He added that those arrested loaned drug money to private citizens at high interest rates.
Quito airport named best in South America
Quito’s Mariscal Sucre airport was named the best airport in South America in the 2022 World Airport Awards. The designation was based on 10 factors, including convenience of access, amenities, quality of service and terminal layout. Skytrax, an organization that evaluates airport and airline services internationally, conducted the surveys that determined the award.
According to Quito airport management, the terminal received 1,882,110 passengers in 2021, 76 percent of the pre-pandemic number of 2019. It said, however, that arrivals through June 2022, are running at 90 percent of the 2019 level.