Lasso names judges he says released gang leaders; Students drilled on volcanic eruption evacuation plans; Cuenca Carnival events schedule announced

Feb 9, 2023 | 9 comments

President Guillermo Lasso has sent the names of eight judges who ordered the release of suspected criminal gang leaders to the Attorney General’s office. “We must remove the bad judges from the court,” he said in his weekly television address Tuesday night. “How can be fight organized crime if certain individuals in our justice system continue to release the crime leaders?”

According to Secretary of Public and State Security Diego Ordóñez, the released gang members have been accused of murder, kidnapping, trade in illegal drugs and other criminal activities. The same list was presented to the National Judiciary Council which was urged to impose professional sanctions if they are warranted.

The names of he judges presented to prosecutors were not released.

“We have reviewed the legal arguments in cases where gang leaders have been ordered released and found they do not meet the constitutional requirement to protect the public,” Ordóñez said. “As criminal activity has increased and poses a growing threat to the country, we stand with the citizens in demanding that judges not put our communities at risk.”

Food and craft fairs are among the many activities planned for Carnival in Cuenca. (El Mercurio)

In addition to violent crimes and drug trafficking, Ordóñez said that some of those released from custody had links to arms and human trafficking and illegal mining.”

In justifying his claim of judicial misconduct, Lasso said that seven judges have previously been investigated and relieved of judicial duties. “We are not on a wild goose chase,” he said. “Our previous claims have been proven and those judges have been separated from their duties.”

Students drilled on volcanic eruption evacuation plans
The National Risk Management Office has begun a series of safety and evacuation drills to prepare schools for a possible eruption of the Cotopaxi volcano. Coordinated through the Ministry of Education, the drills are focused on schools in “danger zones” near Cotopaxi where lahars and lava flows have occurred in the past.

This week’s exercises are being conducted at schools in the Rumiñahui canton, 30 minutes south of Quito, and involve 2,000 students. Last week, 10,000 students in the Los Chillos Valley, east of Quito, went through evacuation drills. In a news release, the Risk Management office said that thousands more student will be trained in the coming weeks.

“In the event of a sudden eruption, students and staff of schools located in the dangers zone must be prepared to take immediate action,” the Risk Management statement said. “These schools are located in the path of pyroclastic debris fields of past eruptions. In some cases, the schools are built on the remains of earlier lava flows.”

The Geophysical institute reported Tuesday that volcanic activity at Cotopaxi continues on “an upward trend” but said it did not believe there was an imminent danger. Last week, volcanic gas and ash clouds reached at height of 2,500 meters, the highest recorded since the current activity cycle began in October.

Large areas of south Quito as well as areas to the east and southeast of Cotopaxi are experiencing light to moderate ashfall. Farmers in Cotopaxi Province have suffered “severe” crop damage as a result of the ash, according to the Agricultural Ministry.

Cuenca Carnival events schedule announced
The annual Compadres and Comadres night, when thousands gather in San Francisco Plaza to spray foam and throw water of  fellow celebrants, will begin Thursday, February 16 at 6 p.m. Traditionally held in Parque Calderon, the event was relocated to San Francisco Plaza last year following a two-year suspension due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Cuenca Culture Office, the Union of Journalists and the Amistad Club also announced that this year’s Carnival parade will begin at 10 a.m., Saturday, February 18, at San Blas Plaza, marching up Calle Bolívar, past Parque Calderon, to General Torres.

Other holiday events include food and crafts fairs, concerts and cultural events. For more about Carival in Cuenca, click here.

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