Government will honor Cuenca’s anti-mining vote; Foundation helps Cuenca’s 15,000 Venezuelans; 75% are vaxxed; Court okays emergency declaration

Dec 6, 2021 | 3 comments

Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment has agreed to work with the city of Cuenca to enforce mining restrictions approved in February’s election. In a referendum, voters overwhelmingly supported banning mining from the municipal watershed.

Much of Cuenca’s protected watershed will be in the Cajas National Park.

The Ministry said it would cooperate with the municipal water authority, ETAPA, to determine the boundaries of the area where mining will not be allowed. “We have already defined the water recharge zone that will be protected but need final approval from the ministry,” says Cuenca councilman Cristian Zamora. “The protected zones are adjacent to the Tarqui, Yanuncay, Machángara, Tomebamba and Norcay rivers, much of it included in the Cajas National Park. We are pleased that the government has agreed to review and approve our plans and that President [Guillermo] Lasso is honoring his campaign promise to respect the voters’ decision.”

During the administration of President Lenin Moreno, the Environmental and Mining Ministries opposed the referendum, claiming that the national government, not local voters, had the authority to limit mining. The Constitutional Court disagreed, allowing the popular referendum to proceed.

Under terms of the referendum, the two existing mines in the watershed can continue to operate if they prove that they do not adversely affect water quality.

Foundation needs support for Cuenca’s 15,000 Venezuelan refugees
More needs to be done to assist the estimated 15,000 Venezuelan refugees living in Cuenca. That’s the message of the Fundación Haciendo Panas, which says 25 percent of the refugees are homeless, with most living in temporary housing or on the street. Foundation President Otibel Balero is asking the municipality and provincial government to increase efforts to improve living conditions and employment opportunities for Venezuelans as well as to integrate refugee children into public schools.

“I am also asking leaders to assist the foundation in raising the sensitivity of Cuenanos to the deprivations and dangers the refugees face every day.” Baleros said in a radio interview Friday. “These people deserve the compassion and the support of the community.”

Haciendo Panas provides Venezuelans with food, medical, psychological, rental and legal assistance, Baleros says. “We are doing all we can but need broader support and additional funding to meet the needs,” he said, adding that foundation programs are currently operating under grants from the International Migration Organization.

For more information about the work of Fundación Haciendo Panas, click here.

75% of Ecuadorians are vaccinated
The Ministry of Health reported Saturday that the country has vaccinated 75 percent of residents over the age of five against Covid-1. “We are pleased with the success of the program and continue to work toward our goal of 85 percent by the end of the year,” the Ministry said in a statement. “Although we have seen small increases in coronavirus cases in some communities, Ecuador has been highly effective in controlling the virus thanks to the high vaccination rate.” The statement added that 96 percent of those over the age of 65 and those with chronic health conditions have been immunized.

The Ministry says it is studying vaccinating children under the age of five but said no decision will be made until January or February 2022.

Court okays new emergency declaration
The Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that the state of emergency ordered by President Guillermo Lasso on November 18 does not violate the rights of citizens. The 30-day emergency was declared following a riot at Guayaquil’s Litoral Penitentiary prison that left 62 prisoners dead and applies to El Oro, Guayas, Santa Elena, Manabí, Los Rios, Esmeraldas, Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, Pichincha and Sucumbios Provinces. The court said that illegal drug-related crime in those provinces and in the prisons justifies the emergency that ends December 17