Prison finally secured, 42 victims are identified; ‘Big Money’ charges pending; Economy shows strong growth; Ice storm floods Quito; IMF approves loans

Oct 2, 2021 | 3 comments

The bodies of 42 of the 118 inmates murdered in the Guayaquil Penitentiary riot earlier this week have been identified, with 22 of them delivered to families. Police commander Fausto Olivo reports that the identification process is continuing around the clock but says, due to the condition of some bodies, verification of all victims could take a week or longer. He said the death toll of 118 has not increased.

An intense hailstorm snarled traffic and caused flooding Friday in Quito.

National prison director Bolívar Garzón reported Friday afternoon that all areas of the prison are now secured. “There were two cell blocks that had been barricaded by prisoners but these areas had not experienced violence. Police removed the barricades and confirmed the presence of all inmates.”

Meanwhile, in acknowledging President Guillermo Lasso’s emergency declaration for the national prison system, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court warned that the country’s incarceration and rehabilitation system is in a “state of failure.” In a statement, the court said that there has been no effort to repair prison system problems identified in March by an independent committee. “Not only are we seeing failure from the administrative aspect but are witnessesing human rights violations of prisoners. Immediate remedies are required.”

Government goes after ‘Big Money’
National Court Judge Carlos Bowen issued an order Friday prohibiting officials of the now-defunct “Big Money” operation in Queveda from leaving the country. The order applied to the director of the company, Miguel Ángel Nazareno, and associates identified as Gabriela B. and Dayana S. Bowen said that money laundering and illegal operation charges are being prepared against the three and will be presented next week. According to the court, the whereabouts of Nazareno is unknown.

Among the documents and evidence presented at the hearing was a video tape of Nazareno, who goes by Don Naz, promising a 90 percent return on investments within eight days.

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According to court documents, Big Money was not licensed to provide banking services and was operating under a RUC authorizing appliance repair. Evidence shows that millions of dollars were processed through Big Money and that many investor did, in fact, make large returns. Many others, however, have not been repaid since the operation was closed by the government in June.

Although unconfirmed by investigators, media reports claim that Big Money was associated with drug operations on the coast. In July, five men were killed in a shootout near Big Money headquarters in Quevedo and police said the murders were linked to the operation and possibly to large drug transactions.

Economy shows strong growth
Ecuador’s Central Bank reported that the economy grew by 8.4 percent in the second quarter of 2021 compared to the same period of 2020. The economic sectors showing the strongest growth were oil refining, up 89.6 percent, oil production and mining, up 25.3 percent, and fishing, up 20.7 percent. In addition, Ecuadorian households showed a strong increase in consumption, up 10.5 percent. Exports increased 16 percent while investment in industry was up 9.8 percent.

A social media ad for the”Big Money” operation in Queveda.

The Bank attributed the strong numbers to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. “Although the numbers are impressive, they are a reflection of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. There was a shutdown of much of the economy in the second quarter of 2020 and we suffered a record decline in production.”

The Bank continues to predict a 3 percent increase in gross domestic product for 2021 but says the number could be slightly higher.

Quito hail storm causes flooding, strands motorists
Several neighborhoods in north Quito suffered flooding following an intense hail and rain storm Friday afternoon. The storm, which followed a sunny morning, caught many by surprise and because of the depth of the hail, hundreds of motorists were temporarily stranded on city streets. According to police, there were nine accidents related to the storm.

The worst flooding was reported at the Plaza Argentina, the Vivarium in Parque La Carolina and at the government immigration office in Vellavista. Emergency workers said ice accumulation clogged storm drains, causing the back-up of water.

IMF approves Ecuador loan
The International Monetary Fund Board of Directors approved the disbursement of the first IMF loan payments to Ecuador on Wednesday, according to Guillermo Avellán, president of the Central Bank. The Bank will receive $800 million next week with another $700 million to follow December 1. The disbursements are part of a multi-billion dollar loan package that will be delivered through 2022.

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