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In-depth look at a prison and its crimes, according to a former prison leader
Redacción Plan V

Latacunga is one of the three maximum security prisons in the country. But like other prisons it has many vulnerabilities. File: PlanV

Panela vs. mining: the hidden battle in northwestern Quito

The inhabitants of Pacto state that their main livelihood is agriculture, specifically the cultivation of sugar cane and the production of panela.
Photos: Luis Argüello / PlanV

In Pacto, the community members have been holding a sit-in for more than 80 days to prevent the removal of gold-bearing material. They are asking the authorities to revoke the mining concessions and to seize dozens of sacks of mineralized stones that, they claim, are in these camps. They prefer agriculture, especially sugarcane cultivation and panela production, to be the main livelihood of these families. One of the mining companies defends itself.
Rasquiña's master stroke in the justice system

Jorge Luis Zambrano, alias Rasquiña or JL, while leaving Latacunga prison, on June 6, 2020.

The pre-release of Jorge Luis Zambrano, alias Rasquiña and leader of Los Choneros, had a key moment: the decision by Judge Jose Tamayo Arana to reduce his sentence from 20 to 8 years. But neither the Prosecutor General's Office nor the Judiciary complained in time about this unusual decision. Both judiciaries refused an interview with Plan V on this issue. On June 18, the judiciary issued a preventive detention order against Judge Tamayo, 16 months after his controversial sentence. Zambrano was killed on December 28 by a hitman.
The boatman from Manta who made US$200 million in crime
Redacción Plan V

Before being extradited to the United States, the drug lord ordered the killing in Ecuador of several officials and police officers who managed his capture. Photo: EFE

This is one of the few images of Telmo Castro when he was captured for the second time in 2013.

The strange judicial history of Telmo Castro
Redacción Plan V

This small plane, captured in Guatemala in October 2017, left Ecuador loaded with 382 packages of drugs. The aircraft had a malfunction and fell in Jutiapa. The pilots were Mexican. Photo: Prensa Libre, Hugo Oliva

Sinaloa and its links to Ecuador's justice system
Redacción Plan V

3.2 tons of drugs mixed with animal feed in Guayaquil seaport was the last major capture of 2019. Photo: El Universo

The 'Ndrangheta also operates in Ecuador's ports
Redacción Plan V

On October 22, nine Ecuadorians and two foreigners were arrested in an operation and 446 kilos of cocaine that was destined for Mexico were seized. Photos: Antinarcotics Police.

Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG): the Mexican drug cartel that has taken a foothold in Ecuador
The discovery of a clandestine airstrip, more than 400 kilos of drugs and 11 detainees were the result of a recent operation in Manabí. One of those apprehended is a Mexican allegedly emissary of the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG). Although Ecuadorian authorities have not provided details, the DEA has recorded the presence of this criminal organization in the country since 2009.

The need to make transparent the millions of dollars that the extractive industry moves is a challenge EITI in Ecuador.

The complex (and obscure) mining and oil taxation system
The EITI initiative proposes greater transparency on tax collection from extractive industries as well as on the destination of these resources. In the Ecuadorian case, there are a number of reservations about company taxes and little information available from the Internal Revenue Service.

Cleanup of one of the spills that occurred in the community of 18 de Noviembre, in Shushufindi, Sucumbíos. This image was taken during the visit of a commission of assembly members to the area last December. Photo: Municipal Autonomous Government of Shushufindi.

Two oil spills occur every week in Ecuador
Between 2015 and June 2021, 899 oil spills have been recorded. In 2020, the frequency was almost two spills per week, an increase from 2013 when there was the last official information. PlanV makes a count, in a timeline, of the worst oil disasters but also of those minor events that have affected the Amazon and the Coast through which the pipelines pass.

On June 26, Ecuador celebrated 49 years of having transported for the first time a barrel of oil through the Trans Ecuadorian Pipeline. Since then, the country's economy has been anchored to oil production. But this bonanza has also meant serious environmental impacts. In Ecuador, during 2020, there were an average of almost two oil spills every week, according to official figures from the Ministry of Environment accessed by PlanV.

Last May, there was a mobilization of Hanrine company workers against the National Police Command in Quito. The company has accused this institution and the Ministry of Government of not opening the public access road to one of the concessions, which is occupied by the inhabitants of La Merced de Buenos Aires, in Imbabura.

Ecuador: the war for the Imbabura copper belt
An invisible war has been unleashed over mining concessions full of copper and gold in the province of Imbabura. In the middle are the Australian Hancock (Hanrine in Ecuador) and the Chilean state-owned Codelco, considered the largest mining companies in the world. This battle apparently involved high authorities of Lenín Moreno's government, the National Police and other justice entities.

 

Large mining projects such as Cascabel coexist in the country with small artisanal mineral exploitations.  Photo: Courtesy

 

EITI Ecuador and the challenge of making mining and oil transparent
Information on the details of the extractive industry in Ecuador is still at a superficial level, especially in relation to mining, where there is disorder and opacity. Ecuador joined the EITI standard that seeks to make transparent the figures, contracts and shareholders of large mining and oil companies in the world and the process has started. However, there are several complex legal and administrative challenges and expectations due to the change of government.

Cajas, from one of its highest points, Tres Cruces, at 4,150 meters above sea level. This is an ancient lake and moorland system where two of the four rivers that cross the city of Cuenca originate. It is a protected area and any type of mining is prohibited. Photos: Luis Argüello / PlanV

 

Cuenca: the popular vote that puts large-scale mining at risk
The struggle to defend water in Cuenca has been going on for decades. At the beginning it was only a matter of peasant and indigenous communities, but then the towns and cities joined in. Especially the young people. Now, it is a cultural and political issue that, after the anti-mining referendum, has generated an environmentalist shake-up, whose consequences are yet to be seen.

Illegal mining left a bare, pitted and contaminated mountain. The State -through its ministries of Energy and Environment- has not taken care of the environmental liabilities. Photos: Luis Argüello / PlanV

 

Terror in the illegal mines of Buenos Aires comes to light
Recent sentences describe the violence and executions that took place between armed groups for the control of illegal mines in the parish of La Merced de Buenos Aires. PlanV reconstructed these crimes with court documents and confidential sources. We went up to the Mina Vieja to collect shocking images with a drone.

Border patrol agents search unaccompanied minors in the city of La Joya, Texas, neighboring Ciudad Juarez, through which most Ecuadorians seeking to reach the U.S. transit. Photo: Hector Guerrero

Nearly 2,000 unaccompanied Ecuadorian minors reached the U.S. border in the last eight months
In recent months there has been an accelerated increase in the number of Ecuadorian minors traveling without their parents to the U.S.-Mexico border. The migration of unaccompanied Ecuadorian minors is not new and has revealed the risks and violence to which they are subjected along the way. Last June 21, an Ecuadorian teenager died while trying to cross the border through the desert in the state of Texas. Last March, the US registered 19,000 unaccompanied minors from 20 countries in a single month, a record.

Between October 2020 and May 2021, the U.S. Border Patrol found 1,988 Ecuadorian children and adolescents at the border with Mexico. All of these minors were without their parents. Recent data released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show the accelerated increase of minors from Ecuador transiting one of the most dangerous borders in the world.

Referential image

 

In 2020 there were more than 200,000 alerts on child sexual exploitation from Ecuador
CyberTipline is a centralized North American system for reporting online child exploitation and on Ecuador registered 242,631 incidents in the year of the pandemic, an increase of more than 100% compared to 2019. This mechanism has been helpful in uncovering pedophiles and sexual exploiters of minors in the country. Its data plus local investigations led to the arrest, last week, of an international network operating in six countries, including Ecuador.

Ecuador surpassed 200,000 reports of suspected child sexual exploitation in 2020. That implies an increase of more than 100% over 2019 when 98,669 incidents related to child pornography or child sex trafficking were recorded. This data belongs to the U.S.-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which obtains its data through CyberTipline.

Panoramic view of the entrance to the parish of La Merced in Buenos Aires. Photos: Luis Argüello / PlanV

 

Buenos Aires has not yet closed the mining wounds
An unprecedented event occurred in the parish of La Merced de Buenos Aires, in Imbabura. Hanrine company workers and the community of Buenos Aires remain day and night at this point. Miners and anti-miners have not given in for more than a month. A conflict aggravated by the lack of response from the State. A chronicle.

 

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