Interior Minister Juan Zapata has turned over to prosecutors the names of 28 candidates in the February 5 election who he believes have links to drug trafficking and illegal mining. The 22 men and six women are running for mayor and prefect offices in 11 provinces, the minister said. Earlier, Zapata had turned over another list of 21 candidates, also suspected of criminal ties.
Although Zapata did not release names, the prosecutor’s office says it includes two candidates from Cuenca and Azuay Province, both suspected of illegal mining connections. Zapata said the “majority” of candidates on the list are from Guayas and two other coastal provinces.
“Like those I submitted before, these 28 candidates have known relationships with drug trafficking and illegal mining crimes as well as other crimes,” Zapata told reporters at a Thursday press conference. “The candidates on these lists are members of several political parties.”
The February 5 election will determine mayors, prefects and parochial officers who will serve four-year terms.
Zapata said the government is specifically targeting candidates for public office. “To have men and women in roles of public trust who have links to criminal organizations is a direct threat to democracy,” he said. “In our fight against organized crime, we cannot tolerate public officials who are in direct opposition to our mission.”
The Attorney General said in early January that it is unlikely to finish its investigations before the elections but will pursue them “to the legal conclusion.”
Expat’s ‘unusual’ disappearance is investigated
The disappearance of a British expat in Bolivar Province is being called “extremely unusual” by the National Police, who say an investigation is continuing. On Monday night, the last time 63-year-old Cyril Baldwin was seen, his neighbors in the rural San Simón parish reported a “blinding light” coming from his house and extending into the sky. They also say they heard a low-pitched humming noise that continued for about half an hour.
Responding to numerous 911 calls, police first suspected a fire but ruled it out after entering Baldwin’s four-room adobe dwelling. In their official report, police describe finding machinery and computer equipment connected to coils of wire submerged in a vat of a green gel-like substance. The report noted that police had made several visits to San Simón in recent months following reports of lights in the sky and “possible UFOs.”
An acquaintance of Baldwin, a North American expat living in nearby Guaranda, told police that Baldwin planned to “transport” himself to another dimension on the night of his disappearance. “All the equipment he had was meant to accomplish this but he never explained how it worked,” he said, adding that Baldwin never allowed him in the house. The North American, who asked not to be identified, said he had seen the UFOs above San Simón on “a number of occasions.”
A regional police commander told a Guaranda radio station on Wednesday that suicide or a suicide attempt has not been ruled out. “Our men have searched the area around San Simón but have not found any sign of Mr. Baldwin,” he said.
Wind farm will go into operation in March
Ecuador’s largest wind farm, on the Loja-Azuay Province border, will go into operation in late March, the Energy Ministry said Friday.
The Huascachaca wind farm, with a capacity of 50 megawatts, is in the final stages of testing following the installation of the last of 14 wind turbines on the Yuluc plateau, elevation 1,400 meters. Once operational, the farm will provide electricity to an estimated 100,000 homes and businesses in Azuay and Loja Provinces.
According to the Energy Ministry, each of the 14 turbines is rated for 3,570 megawatts. Electricity produced on the farm will feed into the Cuenca-Loja power grid.
The wind farm was built with a $90 million investment from the Development Bank of Ecuador and public utility company, Elecaustro. The Energy Ministry estimates that the project will reduce carbon dioxide emission by 76,000 tons.