QUITO – Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa decreed a state of emergency due to the unusual activity of Cotopaxi volcano in the country’s central Andean region, which has belched forth huge quantities of ash and volcanic rocks.
Though settlements near the colossus were originally evacuated as a precautionary measure, Ecuadorian security authorities later decided to stop evacuating certain communities after a flight over the volcano convinced them that “there is no potential threat” from eruptions in certain areas.
Citizens can return to their homes in Lasso, Mulalo and communities on the banks of the Cutuchi River, though two places remain under precautionary evacuation in Mejia canton: El Pedregal and Loreto, a town of approximately 400 inhabitants.
Meanwhile, the state of emergency remains in force, requiring that “every effort be made by all members of the armed forces and National Police,” which are “under orders from the Defense Ministry and the Security Coordinating Ministry to use all means at their disposal to combat this emergency.”
The decree also authorizes the Finance Ministry “to make use of all public funds earmarked for other purposes to handle this emergency, with the exception of those allocated to health and education.”
“Mobilization is declared in all national territory to deal with this emergency, along with whatever appropriations are necessary, in accordance with the orders established by security agencies, which are authorized to suspend constitutional rights to the privacy of the home, to transit, to assembly and to correspondence,” it says.
The government order makes clear that this can be done “only in the proportion necessary to deal with the emergency. The suspension of these rights for other purposes that are not here established is prohibited,” the legal secretary of the presidency, Alexis Mera, stressed as he read the decree.
“In order to guarantee citizens’ safety,” the document decrees “the preliminary censorship of news in the media regarding the Cotopaxi eruptions.”
“Citizens may only be informed by official bulletins on that subject issued by the Security Coordinating Ministry, while the dissemination of unauthorized information by any media outlet, whether public or private, or on social networks, is prohibited,” the decree says.
It says that preliminary censorship will be “restricted exclusively to news related to this emergency.”
The state of emergency “will last as long as may be necessary to deal with the eruptions of Cotopaxi volcano, but may not continue for more than 60 days,” the government order says.