September 2015 – ECUADOR – A government spokesperson said Tuesday that the alert level at the Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador remains at yellow and dispelled rumors circulating on social media that the danger level is being manipulated by political officials. “It is an act of irresponsibility and carelessness toward families at risk to spread messages that state that the national government is hiding information about the status of Cotopaxi,” said spokesperson Stefano Iannuzelli. An audio message with an unidentified woman’s voice has been circulating online that claims the alert level has been raised from yellow to orange but that President Rafael Correa is not allowing this information to be public. Iannuzelli stressed that this was categorically false. Cotopaxi has shown increased signs of volcanic activity, including spewing ash and smoke. In response, the government decreed a state of emergency. Cotopaxi is located a mere 50 kilometers from the capital of Quito.
The state of emergency allows the government to dedicate all the funds that would be necessary for relief and evacuation efforts. The government has already earmarked US$500 million in emergency funding to handle volcanic activity, in order to avoid the dissemination of false information that could cause panic, the decree also mandates that only the Coordinating Ministry of Security can issue information regarding volcanic activity. “The government clarifies, once again, that the only official spokesperson on this issue is the Coordinating Ministry of Security, an institution that works in coordination with the Geophysical Institute of the National Polytechnic School, the Secretariat of Risk Management and all relevant state bodies,” said Iannuzelli.
A number of opposition politicians have attempted to smear the government over its handling of the possible eruption of the Cotopaxi volcano, accusing the government of trying to take advantage of the danger to quell protests. Ecuadorean Vice-President Jorge Glas criticized the outlook of some politicians for acting as if they were volcanic experts and clarified that the state of emergency only applies to matters related to the potential eruption of one of the world’s highest volcanoes. The state of emergency has not been used for any measures beyond those necessary to respond to the danger posed by Cotopaxi. The latest press release from the Coordinating Ministry of Security stated that activity at the volcano remains similar to that from previous days and as a result the alert level remains at yellow. –Telesurtv