Murders increase nationwide; Flooding replaces drought concerns; Authorities crack-down on street begging; ‘Smear campaign’ against vaccines attacked
Ecuador registered 1,049 murders through the first 10 months of 2020, the highest count since 2014 according to National Police. October was the year’s deadliest month with 134 murders.
Cities with the greatest increase in homicides were Naranjal with 150%; Duran, 125%; Machala, 52%; Manta, 50%; Puebloviejo, 44%; and Guayaquil, 22%. Of all the country’s murders, 30% occurred in Guayaquil.
Nationally, police report a 5% increase in murders in 2020 compared to 2019. The new numbers push Ecuador’s official murder rate to 6.6 per 100,000, which ranks third lowest in Latin America. The police noted that several cities report little or no increase, including Loja and Cuenca.
Recent rains end drought concerns
Cuenca utility company ETAPA says the drought is over as are any considerations of water rationing. The afternoon thunderstorms that began last week have raised the level of the city’s four rivers, the Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Tarqui to Machangara, to above-normal flow levels and have, in fact, caused flooding in several cases. The reservoir on the Rio Machangara is at full capacity.
Health ministry decries social media anti-vaccine ‘smear campaign’
Ecuador Deputy Minister of Health Xavier Solórzano says that a recent “blitz” of misinformation and rumors regarding the safety of Covid-19 vaccines is worrisome but will not affect the eventual effectiveness of inoculations. “There has been a rising chorus of fake news on social media, most of it simply stupid, that we are in the process of correcting,” he said Thursday. “Part of our job is demystifying the silliness propagated by ignorant people.”
Among the top conspiracies, says Solórzano, is that Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro has injected “truth serum” into the vaccines, that vaccines will contain microchips in contact with Chinese satellites and that the jab will sterilize women. “Fortunately, 80 percent of the population does not believe the nonsense and will accept vaccination,” Solórzano says. “We estimate that we need to vaccinate 60 to 65 percent of Ecuadorians to put an end to the pandemic.”
He adds that vaccination of high-priority and high-risk population groups will begin in January.
Government begins anti-begging campaign
Ecuador’s Ministry of Social Inclusion has launched a nationwide program to discourage begging during the Christmas season. The campaign’s intent is to connect street beggars in major cities with public and private agencies that provide meals, health care and other services.
Of special concern, the ministry says, is child begging, which it says is difficult to control due to the large number of Venezuelan refugees in the country. Of the estimated 400,000 refugees in Ecuador, as many as 200,000 are considered indigent.
One problem the ministry faces is that begging can be lucrative in some cases, with beggars in Quito and Cuenca reportedly doing “very well.”