National Police and the armed forces are looking for as many as 30 men who murdered nine fishermen and injured five more in Esmeraldas Tuesday morning. The hooded “hit team” arrived on foot, by boat and taxi at a dock warehouse and opened fire. Several of the victims were shot in the water after they jumped off the pier adjacent to the warehouse.
Most of the attackers fled by boat into the ocean or a nearby river, according to navy officials.
Interior Minister Juan Zapata said that most of the dead and injured were fishermen who sort and pack the daily catch that arrives at the Emeraldas docks. “Most of the victims are poor dock workers who are paid by the day for their services, making this event all the more tragic,” he said. He said it is believed that the motive was the workers’ refusal to pay a “vaccination fee” to a criminal gang for protection services.
On Tuesday night, the National Police issued a statement blaming the killings on a dispute between two criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking and extortion (“vaccines’).
Lasso’s defense team outlines strategy
President Guillermo Lasso’s attorney Edgar Neira said Tuesday he will insist that all documents related to Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana (Flopec) contracts be considered during the president’s upcoming impeachment trial.
Flopec business arrangements with the Amazonas Tanker Company that transported oil to foreign buyers are the basis of the embezzlement charges made against Lasso by his accusers in the National Assembly.
“To have the full picture of the Flopec case, the trial must include the 2018 contract and the 2020 revision, both of which were executed before the president took office,” Neira said. “There are efforts by some Assembly members to make these documents inadmissible and we will insist that the Supervisory Commission allow all pertinent information to be included.”
Neira also said Lasso would produce all documents requested by Assembly members as long as they relate to the Flopec case. “We will follow the dictate of the Constitutional Court in this matter but will not deliver unrelated documents.”
Meanwhile, Fernando Villavicencio, president of the Assembly’s Oversight Commission, asked the Constitutional Court to guarantee that the impeachment trial be based strictly on the Flopec embezzlement charges against Lasso. “The court provided very specific instructions about the scope of the case against the president and I am asking that the judges monitor proceedings to make certain those instructions are followed.”
Death toll rises to 36 in Alausí landslide
The number of deaths from the March 26 Alausí landslide has risen to 36, according to recovery teams working at the scene. At least 52 people remain missing, according to the Alausí Fire Department, which is coordinating work at the scene.
“Our heartbreaking work continues,” the Alausí fire chief said Tuesday at a press conference. “Entire families remain unaccounted for and we cannot rest until they are found.”
Galapagos sees record number of March tourists
Ecuador Tourism Minister Niels Olsen reports that the Galapagos Islands registered a record number of tourists in March with more than 32,500 visitors. “This is excellent news given the difficulties the country has faced in recent months,” Olsen said. “The Galapagos Islands remains one the world’s most attractive destination and we predict this will not change.”
According to Olsen, 78,500 visitors arrived in the Galapagos from January to March, 58 percent foreigners. “This is not only good news for Ecuador but also for residents of the Galapagos since 80% of the population depends on tourism for a living.”