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Ecuador Stops the Rescue of Spanish Citizens By Blocking the Runway

Ecuador Stops the Rescue of Spanish Citizens By Blocking the Runway
Taylor Rains

Last week, with the support of city mayor Cynthia Viteri, officials in Guayaquil, Ecuador prevented an Iberia Airlines aircraft from landing at the city’s airport. Now, the European Union is working to ensure the country keeps its airports open for aircraft being sent to rescue European citizens.

Guayaquil Physically Blocked an Aircraft from Landing

According to Reuters, the aircraft was inbound from Spain on a rescue mission to collect European citizens stuck in Guayaquil. The airport blocked the plane from landing by strategically placing at least a dozen trucks on the runway, which can be seen in the camera footage posted to Twitter. The aircraft, which only had crew onboard, eventually landed in Quito and was able to evacuate 170 passengers and return back to the EU.

Controversial Action

The mayor explained her decision to support the blocking of the aircraft in a Facebook video and later revealed she tested positive for COVID-19. However, the country’s Ministry of Transport and Public Works released a statement expressing its disapproval of Viteri’s actions, stating, “This State Portfolio as the governing body of transport on a national scale seeks to safeguard people’s lives. For this reason, it radically rejects the actions taken by the Mayor of Guayaquil on the afternoon of today, March 18, 2020, by placing vehicles of the agency on the runway of the José Joaquín de Olmedo airport, preventing the landing of a foreign plane that only had crew on board (11 people).”

Alexandra Ocles, the director of Ecuador’s risk management service, also condemned the mayor’s decision, stating, “It is a regrettable event because it puts the country in a complex situation, especially with the good relations Ecuador has with European countries.”

Although Ecuador suspended the arrival of commercial flights to help contain the coronavirus, the flight from Spain was permitted because it only had crew on board. As a result of the aircraft blockage, the EU has requested that Ecuador “provide guarantees of security in the use of the airports of Quito and Guayaquil for the arrival of empty flights … and the exit of European citizens.”

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1 Comment

  1. Ferluq

    March 27, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    Please note that the headline is misleading: it was not Ecuador (that is the national government) that blocked Guayaquil airport’s runway for a few hours last week, but rather the Mayor of the city who, without any authority, sent municipal (not state) cars to block the runway. This action was widely condemned in the country, as it impeded the landing of a humanitarian flight, and it is being investigated by the prosecutor’s office as an illegal action.
    It should be noted, nevertheless, that the flight was never in danger as the action by the Mayor occurred before the flight entered Ecuadorian airspace and so it was diverted directly to Quito without approaching Guayaquil.
    From the date of this single incident, several daily ferry flights have been able to land without any issue, both in Quito and Guayaquil, in order to pickup passengers returning to the US, Europe or other destinations.

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