Murders soar in five coastal provinces, hold steady in the Sierra; Abortion law, with Lasso’s changes, becomes law; Tourism gets Easter holiday boost
More than 75 percent of Ecuador’s murders occurred in five of the country’s 24 provinces during the first three months of 2022. Guayas, Manabí, Esmeraldas, Los Rios and El Oro provinces recorded 613 murders while 152 were reported in the rest of the country.
Murders in the five provinces, all located on the coast, increased 300 percent from January through March compared to the same period of 2021.
Víctor Zárate, Guayaquil National Police zone commander, called the increase “a terrible and unsustainable situation” and said more police have been assigned to high crime areas. “We are focusing on specific neighborhoods where crime is most prevalent, hoping to stop the violence before it occurs.” He estimated that 80 percent of murders are related to illegal drug transport and sales.
Through March, Guayas Province had the most murders, 141, followed by Manabí and Esmeraldas, with 71 each.
According to National Police, the murder rate in Ecuador’s Sierra region shows little change from 2021 and 2020. Through 2021, Cuenca, Quito and Loja were listed among the 25 Latin American cities with the lowest murder rate by statistical compiler MacroTrends.
Tourism during Easter holidays hits highest level since 2019
National tourism officials say more Ecuadorians traveled during the Easter Holidays than at any time since 2019, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Hotel and restaurant owners also report record sales for the period.
According to the ECU911 emergency service, a total of 1,453,000 Ecuadorians traveled from Thursday to Sunday, April 14 to 17, also a new high since 2019. What is encouraging about the numbers, says national Emergency Operations Committee President Juan Zapata, is that almost all the travel was by Ecuadorians. “As much as we depend on foreign tourists, the most important factor for the economy is our own citizens. It is very good to see them resuming and enjoying pre-pandemic activities.”
The most popular holiday destinations for travelers, Zapata said, were the Pacific beaches, Quito and Cuenca.
In Cuenca, the Chamber of Tourism reports that hotels were at 70 percent occupancy over the long weekend. “It was the highest rate in more than two years,” said Chamber president Juan Pablo Vanegas. “Restaurant owners also report strong sales.” He added that the city would have seen even more visitors if the highway between Guayaquil and Cuenca was not under repair for landslides.
New abortion law, with Lasso’s changes, becomes official
The National Assembly’s attempt to override President Guillermo Lasso’s partial veto of the new abortion law was unsuccessful Friday and the law, with the president’s changes, becomes official once it is published in the Official Registry. The override attempt fell 20 votes short of the 92 required.
The new law allows abortion in the case of rape but Lasso’s changes reduce the times period in which some girls and women are eligible and increases legal oversight for abortions.
Assembly supporters of the original legislation say they will make another attempt next year to reverse Lasso’s changes. “The president refused to set aside his personal religious beliefs and, as a result, the law puts additional burdens on women who have already suffered injustice,” said Assemblywoman Sofía Sánchez. “We were disappointed that the Constitutional Court did not reject the president’s revisions since it was their ruling that required us to rewrite the law.”
Don Naza buried in a private ceremony
The body of Miguel Ángel Nazareno Castillo, better known as Don Naza, was buried Friday night in a private ceremony in Manabí Province. The body was laid to rest just hours after it was released by police to the family. The burial was in an undisclosed location in El Carmen canton.
Nazareno’s body was found Thursday morning in Amaguaña parish, south of Quito. Police say he died of a gunshot but also suffered stab wounds. Nazareno was accused of operating the illegal “Big Money” loan and investment operation in Manabí Province.