Neighborhoods stage crime protests, warn thieves and ‘vaccinators’; Lasso wants court clarification of impeachment; Court could order Moreno to prison

Apr 17, 2023 | 10 comments

Police are warning neighborhood organizations against taking the law into their own hands. The warning coincided with weekend rallies, marches and road blockages protesting robberies and extortion of businesses.

In the Carmen de Guzho parish on Cuenca’s southside, residents gathered around a bonfire flanked with signs reading, “Danger, thieves will be caught and burned,” and “Vaccinators will die by fire.” Other communities, including El Valle, Turi and Tarqui, staged marches that temporarily blocked streets. Sunday afternoon, the Pan American highway was blocked by protesters in three locations.

Despite police warnings, neighborhood leaders are organizing vigilante brigades to patrol streets and establishing private “alert systems” to warn residents of suspicious activity and individuals. “We prefer that the police control the crime but if they can’t, we will,” said Juan Estes, who organized a rally Saturday in Narancay Alto. “We put the criminals on notice: stay away from our homes and businesses or you could die,” he said.

Former president Lenin Moreno could be ordered to prison for failing to appear at court-ordered appearances in Quito.

In a letter to neighborhood associations, the National Police said that vigilante justice frequently targets innocent people. “In many cases, those who are killed or injured are misidentified and we urge barrio leadership to work with the police when they capture suspects.”

The letter also contained a statistical table showing that crime across all categories in the Cuenca canton has risen 6% in two years. “It is important that resident consider the big picture that crime has risen by only a small amount in Cuenca and that we are not experiencing the large increases seen on the coast.” It added: “Messages spread by social media are often incorrect or are exaggerations of the facts.”

Lasso wants court clarification of impeachment trial
President Guillermo Lasso has asked the Constitutional Court to “clarify and enforce” its ruling for the grounds of the impeachment trial in the National Assembly. Claiming some members of the Assembly have “expressed defiant behavior” toward the ruling, the president said it is necessary for the court to make sure its instructions are followed and the scope of the trial is maintained.

On March 29, the Court ruled that there was sufficient evidence to try Lasso on embezzlement charges regarding contracts for the transport of oil to foreign buyers but that charges of extortion were not admissible.

Lasso also complained that members of the Assembly’s Correista bloc were attempting to introduce irrelevant issues at the trial. “They want to accuse me of adding national debt that occurred during previous governments and for drug trafficking crime,” he said. “They even accuse me of the floods in Guayaquil and the landslide in Chimborazo.”

He added; “In the democratic spirit, I insist that the trial focus on the issue the Constitutional Court said was allowable.”

Court could order Moreno to prison
Former president Lenín Moreno and his wife Rocío González could be ordered to prison for their part in the Sinohydro scandal, their attorney David Mesa said Friday. “It is very possible that the National Court of Justice will order the president and possibly his wife to preventive detention,” according to Mesa. “This could be house arrest or imprisonment.”

Moreno, González and 35 others are accused of accepting bribes from Chinese company Sinohydro, contractor for the Coca-Codo Sinclair hydroelectric project east of Quito.

Moreno, who works in Paraguay as an advocate for the disabled, has refused to travel to Quito for periodic court-ordered appearances, claiming his health prevents it. Prosecutors rejected his offer to appear via Zoom from Asuncion.

Moreno and the other defendants are accused of accepting $76 million in bribes from Sinohydro between 2009 and 2018. Prosecutors say Moreno, his wife and daughter collected $660,000.

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