Cuenca Security Update 2 20 Jan 2024

Cuenca Security Update 2 – Vlog 5 (20 Jan 2024)

Here’s a summary of recent events relating to security in Cuenca. It’s the 2nd update. You can find our first Security Update released on 10th January here too.

We normally provide a summary of videos & the transcript. However, this entire video is really a summary, so the transcript alone works very well for this video. We’ve included this below.

Hello Jason from YapaTree here. It’s been about 10 days since our last update on the tenth of January and quite a bit of progress has been made. I’ve had numerous requests from friends, family and clients to provide another update. So here it is and let’s get stuck right in.

Prison hostages released

Firstly, all prisons are now under control and hostages have been released. Perhaps the most important update is that all of the hostages that were being held in the prisons have now been released. This includes those held in the Turi prison which is near Cuenca.

President Noboa did praise the armed forces via Twitter. Now the summary of this tweet is basically saying, ‘Hey, thanks to the armed forces for all their hard work and getting all the different hostages released from the various detention centers around the country, including the one here in Azuay.’ Taking control of the prisons was core to the President’s strategy. The question now turns to how long can he maintain control and what sort of reforms can he introduce to curb corruption in the jail system.

New entry requirements announced

We have new entry requirements for Ecuador. On the eleventh of January, Ecuador’s Interior Ministry announced that foreigners arriving by land from Peru or Colombia will need to provide an apostilled police report from their country of origin or residence. This is set to last for the duration of the state of emergency, so 60 days from the eighth of January when it was declared. Getting an apostilled police report can take months. However, this update does not apply to those arriving via airports, so flying into Ecuador is now our clear recommendation.

Weapons seized from Turi prison

Weapons and other contraband seized from the Turi Prison after the hostages were released on the thirteenth of January. Operations were carried out over the following days to remove contraband from the prison. The first operation on the fourteenth of January removed firearms such as rifles, submachine guns, pistols, grenades and ammunition. Drugs and household appliances including a PlayStation Five were also found.

Overall progress of the military intervention

And what is the overall progress of the military intervention? The government has been providing these regular little infographics on the progress since the internal armed conflict began. As of filming, the latest update was yesterday, the nineteenth of january. And here’s some of the takeaways. Two thousand three hundred and sixty nine arrests have been made that includes 158 for terrorism. 72 operations were carried out against terrorist groups and during these operations five people the government has deemed as terrorists have been killed.

Objects seized include 885 firearms, 1069 knives, twenty five thousand eight hundred and twenty two rounds of ammunition and there was also the seizure of 15 boats, eighteen thousand dollars and four thousand six hundred and thirty nine explosives. This is obviously good progress, but arresting is only half the battle. There’s already some reports of those arrested on terrorist charges being let go because of corruption in the legal system. This remains a key challenge for Ecuador and President Noboa.

Potential IVA increase from 12% to 15%

President Noboa announced plans to raise the IVA from 12 % to 15 % in an effort to raise funds to help cover costs of the internal armed conflict. He announced this on the eleventh of Jan and there’s been quite a bit of speculation over whether this will be a a temporary or permanent solution. Noboa did recently indicate that he plans for it to be temporary, but there is debate as to whether or not this is practical or even legal.

As a business owner here, I do have mixed feelings about the possible IVA increase. Nobody wants to pay more taxes, but I would comfortably pay an extra 3 % in IVA if it helps to provide the financial means for getting the security situation under control permanently. The big question is whether the increase in taxes will actually flow through to where they are intending, and nobody wants their hard earned taxes just ending up in the pockets of politicians. There are also economic arguments to be made suggesting that removing some of the subsidies would provide a better outcome.

Suspected IED found at a daycare center

Perhaps the incident that had the most potential to cause fear amongst Cuencanos was a suspected IED or homemade bomb was found in a daycare center. The police destroyed it with a controlled detonation, but they did later confirm that the suspected IED didn’t contain any explosives and was actually a wooden object with a battery and a watch.

Now, even though the threat turned out to be false, it still highlights the need for us all to be remain vigilant. It is very easy to think that because we’ve had a lot of positive movement since the military intervention that the risk has completely gone. I don’t think we should be this complacent just yet.

Prosecutor assassinated in Guayaquil

Perhaps the most troubling event of the week was the assassination of the Guayaquil prosecutor Cesar Suarez on Wednesday he was murdered whilst in his car in the north of Guayaquil. Casar was involved in numerous criminal investigations, including the gang activity that took over the television station in Guayaquil on the tenth of January. Now more than ever, Ecuador needs strong prosecutors and a police force that can protect them.

Still searching for Fito

Still searching for Fito, but there’s a little silver lining. The leader of Los Choneros, “Fito”, is still hiding after he escaped from a prison in Guayaquil. But yesterday, the nineteenth of december, family members and collaborators of Fito arrived in Ecuador after being captured and deported from Argentina. This includes Fito’s wife, three children and three other collaborators.

You can be searched by military

Did you know that you can be searched by the military during the state of exception? This is more of a reminder that during the state of emergency, the military does have permission to search you. Here’s a video that circulated of the military conducting checks on public transport in Cuenca. Now, I’m personally not sure what the penalties are if you do refuse to be searched, but I also wouldn’t want to find out.

US cooperation

Cooperation between the US and Ecuador has become an important talking point and it is increasing. This week we saw the US Secret Service arrive in Ecuador to help train members of the Ecuadorian police force and military. But the exact limits of US intervention seems to be unclear, with President Noboa indicating that any permanent presence of the US military like bases, etcetera, would be unconstitutional.

Casinos unlikely to be returning to Ecuador anytime soon

The President previously indicated that he wanted to reintroduce casinos to Ecuador and was proposing to include the question in an upcoming referendum. However, he has since backpedaled on this question and has removed it because he doesn’t think this is the right time to debate this topic. Given the broader narrative around cracking down on organized crime, introducing casinos and the money laundering issues that they pose doesn’t really fit, and so it is no surprise to see this question has been removed. At least for now.

Schools are going back

On a personal level, the two issues that have affected me the most are classes turning virtual and the economic impact to small businesses in Cuenca. Classes finally go back to normal this coming Monday, the twenty second of January. We love our kids dearly, but it has been very hard juggling virtual classes and additional homework during this time. Our family is having covered lockdown flashbacks and we just cannot wait for classes to resume on Monday.

Economic impact on small business

Running a small business in Cuenca is difficult at the best of times, but it is even more difficult when you’re when you’re forced to close doors or just have less customers in general because they don’t want to leave the house. Now I’m talking about your local bakery, your dentist, tiendas, florist, basically anyone that operates a small business here. Personally at YapaTree, we’re very lucky because we’ve effectively been business as usual in our real estate business. We have conducted viewings and listings every single day since the state of emergency has started so it’s really hard to know exactly how much of an impact this has had on our sales and rentals.

I’d really have to collate our data to have a reliable figure here, but I’d estimate that approximately 10% of expats that did have viewings booked with us have subsequently postponed or cancelled these viewings. I have been out and about creating videos like this eBike tour on numerous occasions and whilst I’m taking more care in my surroundings, I haven’t witnessed or experienced anything noteworthy.

So should you still come to Cuenca?

My overall suggestion has not changed since that on the tenth of January. I suggested then that if you’ve made a financial commitment to Cuenca such as flights and accommodation, that I personally would still come. But if I hadn’t made some sort of financial commitment then I would most likely be waiting on the sidelines for another week or so before reevaluating the current situation. Cuenca is certainly a lot calmer than it was when the state of emergency started, but my crystal ball is currently broken so please do as much research as you can and make your own decisions based on local, non sensationalized media reporting. And importantly, this is just for Cuenca. The situation along the coast is very different and more complex. I’d be more hesitant to visit the coast than Cuenca.

Last video on security situation?

Hopefully this is my last video on the security situation in Cuenca. If the situation does continue to improve then I can’t see much of A need to provide these updates as they do take a lot of time. Now of course, if clients, friends, and families do continue to request them, then I’ll certainly consider trying to fit them in.

Feel free to let me know if you did get value from today’s video in the comments, or perhaps you hated it. Either way, that’s really good to know. So please do take care of yourself and hopefully I will see you in our next video.

Ciao ciao

One Response

  1. Hello Jason, thank you so much for taking the time and sharing all the information in your latest video on the security update. It was extremely informative and helpful to me as I travel to Cuenca quite often. Thank you for alleviating some of my fears, well done much appreciated.
    Liz Tuson

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