Search for the missing continues in Alausí landslide; Court begins review of Lasso impeachment case; Two polls show rejection of impeachment trial

Mar 28, 2023 | 8 comments

Local officials are crediting the slow development of Sunday night’s landslide in Alausí for saving lives. According to the Alausí mayor’s office, many residents in the slide zone felt the movement of the earth or heard the rumble of rocks as the landslide began above the city, providing several minutes of warning.

On Monday night, the official death toll from the slide was seven with at least 60 people still missing. Rescue workers were working around the clock to search for victims but admitted the work could take days. “The earth and rubble is 16 to 17 meters deep in some places and most of the digging must be done by hand,” said Jorge Martínez of the Alausí Fire Department, which is coordinating rescue efforts.

Photographs show one of the affected areas of Alausí before and after Sunday night’s massive landslide.

Photos show the massive size of the landslide which began in the Nuevo Alausí and Pueblo Viejo neighborhoods above central Alausí. According to the national Risk Management Secretariat, the slide area measured 400 meters in width and one kilometer in length. “It is one of the largest geologic dislocations we have witnessed in Ecuador,” said Rodrigo Rosero, assistant director of the Risk Management Office.

By Monday afternoon, rescue teams from Cuenca, Quito, Guayaquil, Riobamba were working with local teams at the disaster site.

In a damage assessment, Risk Management officials said that 172 homes were either destroyed or severely damaged and that 300 people were left homeless. Among the public buildings and structures destroyed were the Alausí football stadium, the convention center and five parochial centers.

In addition, two sections of the Pan American highway were destroyed as well as large sections of four local roads. As of Monday night, 60% of Alausí residents were without water service and 25% were without electricity.

Police in Alausí keep an angry crowd out of a meeting between President Guillermo Lasso and local officials Monday night.

Police were called Monday night to hold back an angry crowd when President Guillermo Lasso arrived in Alausí to meet with local officials. Many demanded to talk directly to the president while others blamed him for not taking earlier action to relocate residents in the slide area.

In February, the Risk Management office had issued a report warning of land instability above Alausí and recommending the relocation of residents. During the meeting with Lasso, Alausí officials said they had received the report and were in the process of talking to residents in the risk zone but had not finished their survey.

According to Rosero, his office was awaiting a request for assistance from municipal officials. “Since the area at risk is within the Alausí canton, it is the canton’s responsibility to request government intervention.”

Constitutional Court begins review of impeachment documents
The Constitutional Court on Monday began its consideration of the National Assembly’s request to begin impeachment proceeding against President Guillermo Lasso. In its first action, the nine justices rejected a draft opinion on the Assembly’s case by Judge Teresa Nuques, who had been chosen at random as rapporteur. Following the rejection, Judge Richard Ortiz was picked, also by a drawing, as rapporteur to present another draft opinion.

Under constitutional rules, six of the nine justices must agree that the Assembly’s case against Lasso warrants a trial. If the court rules the charges do not, the Assembly can still proceed with impeachment but must find new grounds for the trial.

On Sunday, Lasso presented a 90-page brief to the court asking the judges to rule the charges against him inadmissable. He claimed the Assembly’s action “constituted an attempt at a parliamentary coup” and that due process was being violated.

The Assembly delayed sending its impeachment case to the court for two days due to what it called “errors” in its list of allegations. Those were corrected on Saturday and a new document was submitted.

Poll shows popular rejection of impeachment trial
According to two polls, most Ecuadorians do not favor an impeachment trial against President Guillermo Lasso in the National Assembly. A Clic Report poll conducted last week showed that 18.5% of respondents support impeachment while 38.6% believe the president should be able to complete his four-year term.

In other questions, 14.5% believe Lasso should resign and 28% say he should invoke the Cross Death, dissolving the Assembly and ordering new elections.

A poll conducted by San Francisco University in Quito showed similar results, with 21% of respondents favoring impeachment, 42.5% opposing it and 25% favoring new elections through the Death Cross.

Clik polled 1,900 voters in Guayaquil, Quito, Cuenca, Manta and Portoviejo while San Francisco University polled 1,100 in Quito and Guayaquil.


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