Government closes 24 Chinese restaurants, 4 in Cuenca; Prison director resigns; U.S. citizen arrested on sex trafficking charges; IESS pays debt to Solca
Twenty-four of 25 restaurants recently closed for unsanitary conditions in Ecuador were chifas, the government health control agency Arcsa said Tuesday. Four of the 24 serving a Chinese menu were in the Av. Remigio Crespo sector of Cuenca, the agency reported.
According to Arcsa director Germán Toapanta, more than 230 restaurants nationwide were inspected in late July, with 182 of them meeting all health standards. “We found about 50 with irregularities in their sanitation controls, which included unsanitary conditions of the premises and violation of protocols in the handling and preparation of food,” he said. “Some were not legally permitted.”
In addition to the restaurants ordered closed, 27 were issued warnings and placed on probationary status until the next inspection. The period of closure is determined by the type of violations and whether an establishment has received previous warnings, Arcsa said in a statement.
In addition to the four closures in Cuenca, there were nine in Guayaquil, eight in Quito, three in Daule and one in Cayambe. The non-chifa closed was a restaurant in Alborada, near Guayaquil.
National prison director resigns – the 5th director in two years
Director of Ecuador’s prison system (SNAI), Guillermo Rodríguez, submitted his resignation to President Guillermo Lasso on Tuesday. He was the fifth SNAI director since Lasso took office.
In a statement, Rodríguez said his decision to step down after nine months was based on “personal considerations” and unrelated to riots and murders in the prison system. “Despite the challenges and recent events, I believe we are making progress in gaining control of the system,” he said in his statement.
More than 400 prison inmates have died in dozens of riots since 2021 in Ecuador. The latest riot, with 31 deaths, occurred July 23 and 24 at the Litoral Penitentiary in Guayaquil.
Presidential candidates in the August 20 cross death election called Rodríguez’s resignation evidence of the government’s failure to control criminal gang activity in the prisons. “When you have five bosses in two years and the riots and corruption don’t stop, it is a clear sign that the government has no control,” Yaku Perez said following the resignation.
IESS to pay debt to cancer hospitals
Following a year and a half of negotiations, the Ecuadorian Social Security Institute (IESS) has agreed to pay its entire debt to the cancer treatment service Solca. According to the agreement, Solca, which operates seven hospitals and clinics in the country, will receive $76 million by the end of the year.
On several occasions since 2019, Solca has threatened to stop providing oncological services to IESS due to non-payment, most recently in January. Under contract, Solca has provided most of the cancer treatments of IESS members for more than 20 years. So far in 2023, it has treated more than 20,000 IESS members.
Still unresolved, IESS, acknowledges, are debts of more than $400 million to other private health care providers.
U.S. citizen arrested on sex trafficking charges
A U.S. citizen and Cuenca resident was arrested Monday at a bar on Calle Larga and charged with sex trafficking between the U.S., Colombia and Ecuador. According to National Police, the arrest of a man identified as Ronald W. was a joint operation with U.S. law enforcement agencies.
National Police said Ronald W.’s alleged criminal operation was based primarily in Medellin and Barranquilla, Colombia, which they said was “extensive.” His residency in Ecuador, police say, was an attempt to avoid detection, although they are investigating three sex trafficking cases in Ecuador, two in Quito and one in Cuenca.
According to the police report, Ronald W. had lived in Cuenca for five years under an alias and was a partner in a local restaurant and a volunteer with charitable organizations.
National Police say Ronald W. will be extradited to the U.S. once documents for the transfer are completed.