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  • Armed forces deploy operations at the Buenos Aires parish, Imbabura, Ecuador, June 2, 2019.

    Armed forces deploy operations at the Buenos Aires parish, Imbabura, Ecuador, June 2, 2019. | Photo: Twitter / @FFAAECUADOR

Published 3 July 2019

The Buenos Aires parish at the Andean mountains has become a center of multiple illegal activities.

More than two thousand police and military were deployed Tuesday for an operation against illegal mining in the Imbabura province, just a few hours after President Lenin Moreno decreed a 60-day state of emergency at the Buenos Aires parish.

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Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo admitted that illegal mining had generated a "multidimensional threat" because that parish hosts other illegal activities such as labor exploitation, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, money laundering, extortion, intimidation, contraband and tax evasion.

The government also ordered security forces to coordinate with other institutions to "execute the necessary actions to restore order, security and the people's effective access to their rights."

Besides reaffirming the prohibition on carrying arms, the executive decree suspended the inviolability of domistic rights and freedoms of mobilization, association and assembly.

Illegal mining at Buenos Aires parish in Imbabura province

On June 23, four people were injured after a confrontation among gangs that tried to gain full control of illegal mining in the Buenos Aires parish.

Apparently, this made President Moreno administration react publicly to what is happening, although a 2018 journalistic investigation already warned about illegal activities and groups in the mining zone.

When asked about the possible presence of Colombian guerrillas in the sector, Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin said such groups do not operate in the country, for there is only "organized crime."

"Although there could likely be Colombian guerrillas trespassing on Ecuador, this is not called guerrilla in Ecuador because its purpose has another meaning in their country," Jarrin said.

Currently, some 10,000 people work in illegal mining in the Buenos Aires parish, a region which has witnessed 27 violent incidents in the first half of 2019, including murders by stabbing and firearms.

According to Minister Romo, however, the police arrested 859 people "linked to illegal activities around the mine" in the last two years. 

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