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Cuenca News

U.S. surveillance flights nab drug runners, San Francisco Plaza vendors prepare for move, Tame trouble, Drugs seized at Manta AF base

U.S. drug surveillance flights pay dividends

Only a week after they began, U.S.-operated drug surveillance flights over the Pacific Ocean are yielding results. On Wednesday, a fast boat carrying illegal drugs off the coast of Esmeraldas Province was detained by Ecuadorian law enforcement and its operators, three Colombians, were arrested. Earlier, 1.3 tons of drugs were captured by the U.S. Coast Guard in international waters, 210 miles from the Galapagos Islands. Two Colombians and one Ecuadorian were arrested in that operation.

A U.S. Coast Guard vessels intercepts a drug shipment near the Galapagos Islands.

The flights of Orion P3 aircraft, based in Guayaquil, are a joint project of Ecuadorian and U.S. military and drug enforcement offices. Ecuador naval spokesman Carlos Alulema said that early results of the flights are encouraging. “These operations are dedicated to keeping the drug trade out of Ecuador and to sending a message to the cartels that they are not welcome here,” he said.

San Francisco Plaza merchants will move in November

City officials say merchants of San Francisco Plaza will move to their new permanent positions in early November. “Work on the plaza is advancing on schedule and the relocation of vendors will proceed according to plan in November,” says Pablo Barzallo, director of the Cuenca Historic Areas Council. He added that reconstruction work on Calle Padre Aguirre, where merchants are temporarily located, will be finished by the end of September.

Ton of drugs seized at air force base

Two soldiers have been charged with possession of more than a ton of illegal drugs at the Manta air force base. The pair was arrested Thursday as they drove a truck carrying the drugs to a drop site on the beach. According to police, the men had planned to load the cargo onto boats to be transported to Mexico. Police have not completed an inventory of the shipment but say it consists mostly of cocaine and coca processing products.

At a news conference, Air Force Commander Patricio Mora promised a “top-to-bottom” review of procedures at the air force base to determine how the drugs were allowed onto the base. “Obviously, protocols were violated for this to happen and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Is Tame near collapse?

The government is denying reports that publicly owned Tame Airlines will close soon. The reports were prompted by a rash of recent national and international flight cancellations. According to a Tame spokesman, last week’s cancellation of flights to New York and Lima were the result of mechanical problems. “We understand the inconvenience to passengers but we cannot fly if our aircraft are not in airworthy condition,” he said. According to Facebook and Twitter comments, airline officials have told some passengers that Tame does not have the funds to make necessary repairs and may soon cease operations.