Official links Villavicencio murder to Albanian mafia; Blackouts resume except in areas of ‘strategic importance’; Yasuní oil operations to end in August

Nov 15, 2023 | 0 comments

Former interior minister José Serrano claims that the murder of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was ordered by the Albanian drug mafia working with the Los Lobos gang. “The order came from the top, from [Dritan] Rexhepi, and the investigation should be in touch immediately with Turkish police to gather more information,” Serrano said Tuesday in an interview with Radio Pichincha.

He also claimed that the assassination was intended, at least in part, to disrupt the recent elections.

Rexhepi, considered the head of the Albanian mafia and the “Cocaine King of Europe,” was arrested last week in Isanbul. He was a fugitive from justice in Ecuador, where he served seven or a 14-year sentence before being released on house arrest in 2021. He disappeared in early 2022 but, according to Ecuadorian police sources, continued to live and operate in the country for at least another year, living and traveling under a variety of aliases.

An oil rig in Yasuní National Park.

“Rexhepi is the key figure for solving the assassination and I have urged investigators to work with the Turkish government to make sure he remains in custody,” Serrano said.

Serrano blames the Attorney General’s office for “botching” the early phase of the assassination investigation.

According to Serrano, on the day of Villavicencio’s murder two investigations was underway, including one for the murder of two Los Lobos members. “Because of the actors involved, it was clear from the beginning there was a connection to the assassination, but prosecutors were late following the leads,” he said. “Afterward, the Attorney General’s office offered very opaque explanations about the connection and lost valuable time.”

Serrano, who served in the Rafael Correa administration, also claimed that prosecutors ignored obvious links between the assassination and the murder of Rubén Cherres who had Ecuador business ties with Rexhepi. Cherres was murdered shortly after news of the relationship was reported.

“I don’t know if there was specific intention, but if it had been conducted properly, the investigation could have concluded quickly and provided answers before the presidential and Assembly elections,” Serrano said. “I believe confusion about the assassination affected the election and hurt Citizens Revolution candidates.”

Blackouts resume except in areas of ‘strategic importance’
Electric blackouts resumed Monday in most of the country, following suspension of rationing during the weekend. According to the Energy Ministry, the scheduled two-hour blackouts are occurring in most of the country, the exception being sectors it says are of “strategic importance.”

One area in Cuenca considered “strategic” is around Parque Calderon where provincial, municipal and national government offices are located. In a radio interview Tuesday, a spokesman for CentroSur Electric explained that the exclusion zone consists of the four blocks on the park and extends to prefecture headquarters to the east. “We understand that it is important that government functions and communication continue with the least amount of interruption,” he said.

Despite new electric inputs from Colombia, Peru and a thermal plant in Esmeraldas, the Energy Ministry said it expects blackouts to continue until early or mid-December. “The period of service suspension may be reduced from two to one hours daily, depending on rainfall at the hydro-generation plants,” the ministry said.

Recent rains have raised reservoir levels at the Paute River generation plants, but the Energy Ministry says they remain “far below optimal operation levels.” It reported that the Paute, Mazar and Sopladora hydro plants are only in operation during peak usage hours, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., as a result of the drought.

The blackout schedule for Azuay, Cañar and Morona Santiago Provinces is posted on the CentroSur Facebook page.

Yasuní oil operations will end in August
Petroecuador announced Monday that August 31, 2024 is the tentative date to end oil production in the Yasuní National Park. In the August election, voters overwhelmingly supported a referendum to stop production in the park due to its environmental importance.

Petroecuador general manager Reinaldo Armijos said it could take as long as 10 years to dismantle all oil production infrastructure, including pipelines and drilling derricks, and cost as much $2 billion.

As of September, Yasuní oil fields accounted for 11% of Ecuador’s total oil production, or about 45,000 barrels per day. Armijos said Petroecuador is exploring options to increase production at other facilities to replace the Yasuní oil.

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