Noboa defends his referendum and says he will add more questions; Ecuadorian migrants rescued in Mexico; Agency warns of food contamination

Jan 5, 2024 | 0 comments

President Daniel Noboa defended the 11 questions he plans to submit to voters in a referendum, saying his “number one priority” is protecting the citizens of Ecuador from crime.

His comments in a radio interview and a press conference on Thursday followed criticism of some of the questions, particularly the one that would reestablish gambling casinos in the country.

“Ecuador is being overwhelmed by organized crime and the corruption that accompanies it and there needs to be major changes to confront it,” Noboa said. “To move forward, we cannot continue the path we have taken. We have to focus first on the safety of our people.”

President Daniel Noba defended his referendum questions Thursday during a radio interview and a news conference that followed.

He added that he plans to add at least five more questions to those currently under review by the Constitutional Court. “These will concern security and employment,” he said.

Noboa agreed that some of the results he seeks from the referendum could be accomplished through the legislative process in the National Assembly, but claims he is interested in “hearing the voice” of the people. “I am also including questions that would require constitutional changes,” he said, adding that referendums put forward by former presidents Rafael Correa, Lenin Moreno and Guillermo Lasso also included questions that could have been resolved in the Assembly.

On the question of allowing gambling, he said casinos would be closely regulated with all of them attached to hotels with “clean records” of paying taxes and following employment laws. He said the industry would provide thousands of new jobs.

Ramiro Goss, who interviewed Noboa on Guayaquil’s Radio Sucre, told reporters that the decision to include non-constitutional questions on the consultation is mostly a political one. “The president understands that confronting organized crime and street gangs is popular with voters and I think he will beat that drum loudly until next year’s election,” Goss said.

Ecuadorian migrants rescued in Mexico
Mexican authorities have rescued 31 migrants, including women and children, who were kidnapped over the weekend in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, officials announced on Wednesday. Mexican Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez said those kidnapped were from Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras and Mexico.

Presidential spokesperson Jesus Ramirez confirmed the rescue on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. “They are already in the hands of the authorities and are undergoing the appropriate medical examinations,” he added, along with a photo that showed men, women and children, including one holding a stuffed animal.

Gunmen abducted the migrants on Saturday from a bus on a highway in the municipality of Reynosa, close to Mexico’s border with the United States. The bus was destined for Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas.

Asylum seekers and human rights activists have for months been warning of an escalating kidnapping crisis in the Tamaulipas border region, especially in Reynosa.

The area is the site of an ongoing conflict between two factions of the powerful Gulf Cartel, known as the Metros and the Scorpions, according to a former security official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He said migrant smuggling and trafficking has become the most lucrative illicit industry in the region.

Earlier in the day, Rodriguez said the kidnapping was “unusual” due to the large number of victims, although it’s not uncommon for migrants to be pulled off buses and kidnapped in Mexico. Usually, the migrants are forced to beg their relatives to pay ransom money. She added that authorities were tracking the cell phones of the migrants in efforts to find them.

Agency warns of contaminated food
The National Agency for Health Regulation and Control (Arcsa) is demanding that two food products be removed from Ecuador store shelves due to lead contamination. The products are Morcilla sold under the Gold brand name, and vanilla-flavored Bakles ice cream cones.

According to Arcsa, both products contain cinnamon containing high levels of lead.

Lead contamination found in a cinnamon additive was first detected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December. The metal was discovered in applesauce exported from Ecuador but not sold in the country.

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