Indigenous block traffic north and south of Cuenca; Former health minister flies to Miami; Country’s schools begin reopening; More trouble at Turi
Road blocks were erected early Monday morning in Cañar and Azuay Provinces, stopping traffic on highway E35, Ecuador’s major north-south thoroughfare. The Provincial Union of the Cañaris defied the national indigenous organization, Conaie, with which it is affiliated, to shut down the highway near Azogues. Conaie opposes the national strike called by Ecuarunari, which is protesting the National Elections Council’s failure to recount more votes in the Feb. 7 presidential election.
The CNE’s decision means that Guillermo Lasso, not the indigenous candidate Yaku Perez, will face Andres Arauz in the April 11 runoff.
On Sunday, Conaie leadership attacked Ecuarunari, claiming that it is not the “true voice” of the indigenous people of Ecuador. “We call on our followers to ignore the strike and Ecuarunari’s support of Yaku Perez, who was a weak candidate and an imposter.”
Country’s schools to begin reopening
The national Emergency Operations Committee has approved the return to face-to-face classes in 77 rural schools. The COE says the reopenings are a pilot project but says it hopes to reopen all of the country’s school by May. The COE is asking schools to present a reopening plan, detailing procedures to protect students and teachers from Covid-19. The plan affects 729 schools, both public and private, in Azuay Province.
Former health minister catches flight to Miami
Former Minister of Health Juan Carlos Zevallos, who resigned his position on Friday, boarded an American Airlines flight to Miami on Saturday night.
Several National Assembly members voiced outrage that Zevallos was allowed to leave the country. Zevallos faced impeachment proceeding in the Assembly as well as a complaint of influence peddling in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. The ex-minister has been criticized for his management of the vaccine rollout and admitted to vaccinating his 87-year-old mother and himself with the first vaccines to arrive in the country.
Also on Saturday, Zevallos’s deputy health minister, Xavier Solórzano, resigned, decrying the “witch hunt” associated with charges against Zevallos and the questions about the rollout of vaccinations in the country.
Commenting on Zevallos’ trip to Miami, Solórzano said, “After everything he has been through, I believe Juan Carlos deserves a vacation.”
More trouble at Turi prison
More than 1,400 National Police and Army personnel conducted a sweep of the Turi prison Sunday following reports of fights among inmates. According to prison management, the disturbance was over by early Sunday night with so serious injuries or damage reported.
Earlier Sunday, police and prison guards confiscated hundreds of weapons they found in cells and common prison areas. Over the weekend, prison management held a series of meetings with prisoners aimed at avoiding a recurrance of the riot and killings of last Tuesday.