Prison overcrowding drops but gangs maintain a strong presence; Employment improves; Latam resumes Miami flights; New gasoline goes on sale

Aug 25, 2022 | 17 comments

A survey conducted by the National Census Service shows that a third of Ecuador prisoners, or 11,000 of 32,000, identify with one of the gangs operating inside the prisons. Gang warfare in prisons has killed more than 400 since 2020 and seriously injured another 150.

Gang warfare in Ecuador’s prisons have resulted in more than 400 deaths since 2020.

National Prison Director Pablo Ramírez said the numbers are “disturbing” but not unexpected. “This is the reality that we live in and this data will help us manage violence within the system,” he said. “Although four or five gangs predominate throughout the prisons, there are a total of 10 or 11 gangs that inmates associate with. Most of them are involved in the illegal drug trade.”

Ramírez added that many of the prisoners who identify with gangs are not incarcerated for drug convictions. “This is an important distinction. For many prisoners, the gangs represent a social network unrelated to drug activity. Some are affiliated due to intimidation.”

There is also “some good news to report,” Ramírez said during a Wednesday press conference. “Overcrowding in the 36 prisons has dropped to 7.5% of capacity, a reduction of more than 17% since the first of the year,” he said. “One of the main factors in prison violence has been overcrowding and we are still reducing the population by releasing nonviolent inmates. Based on the plan initiated by President Lasso, we have released 4,000 to 4,500 inmates.”

The president’s plan also includes increasing the number of guards in the prisons, Ramírez says. “By the end of 2022, we will add 1,300 new penitentiary officers, which will almost double the current workforce of 1,600.”

Employment numbers improve
The government reported Tuesday that the official unemployment rate dropped from 5.2% to 3.9% between July 2021 and July 2022. It reported that under-employment dropped from 24.6% to 22% during the same period.

The National Institute of Statistics and Census said the numbers reflect “continued improvement” in the labor market due to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. “The recovery has been slow but steady and we anticipate continued growth,” the census office said in a press release. “We also maintain efforts to reduce the size of informal employment as it represents a significant reduction in tax receipts, affecting the health and other social services the government can provide.”

Ecuador’s Labor Ministry estimates informal employment to be more than 60% of all employment in the country.

Latam Airlines resumes Miami flights
Chilean-based Latam airlines announced Wednesday that it is resuming its nonstop Quito to Miami flights August 30. The airline dropped the route four years ago. The daily outgoing flight will depart Quito at 8:30 a.m. and arrive in Miami at 12:30 p.m. The return flight will leave Miami at 2:35 p.m. and arrive in Quito at 6:35 p.m.

Latam joins American Airlines in offering the nonstop Quito to Miami connection. Two other airlines offer direct flights to Fort Lauderdale.

In its announcement, Latam said the new flight reflects the airline’s “growth and reactivation of service” following the Covid-19 pandemic. Latam is also adding additional daily flights from Quito to Bogotá, Lima and Santiago de Chile.

Sales of new high-octane gasoline begins Thursday
Petroecuador’s new Eco Plus gasoline goes on sale today in Guayas, Los Rios and Esmeraldas Provinces. The debut of the 89-octane fuel was originally planned for late July but was delayed as a result of the indigenous strike in June. The price of Eco Plus will begin at $3.89 a gallon and will fluctuate according to market conditions.

Eco Plus offers a “mid-range octane fuel”, according to Petroecuador, between the 85-octane Eco and Extra gasolines, which are priced at $2.40 a gallon and subsidized by the government, and the market-priced 95-octane Super, currently selling for $4.89 a gallon.

Petroecuador said that Eco Plus will be available nationwide in late September or October.


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The Cuenca Dispatch

Week of September 17.

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