Ecuador’s National Assembly has begun debate on parts of a new penal code that it had passed in October. The action follows objections by President Rafael Correa, physicians, legal experts and others.
Critics of the original legislation claim that many provisions were not properly researched and that insufficient time was allowed for debate. Assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira admits that the code was rushed to a vote and contains errors that require correction.
One of the key objections is to malpractice penalties against physicians. A group of doctors met with Correa following the Assembly’s vote and the president agreed that the penalties were too harsh and restricted phyicians’ ability to perform their duties. Doctors had demonstrated in several cities around the country and had threatened to strike if rules that criminalized malpractice were not relaxed.
Correa is also demanding that tougher penalties on money laundering and terrorism be included in the new code. The international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has complained that Ecuador has a poor record for enforcing money laundering laws and that penalties are too lenient. In addition, the president is pushing for harsher penalties for crimes committed by minors.
Other issues being debated by the Assembly are penalties for slander, animal abuse, "crimes" by the press, drug possession and sale and traffic infractions.
Groups collect signatures for oil drilling referendum
A coalition of citizen groups and nongovernment organizations opposed to the development of the ITT oil block said it has collected about half the signatures needed to request a national referendum that could block the drilling.
Environmentalists and many scientists around the world are against oil activity in the block, a portion of which is located at the Yasuni National Park.
The coalition needs about 680,000 signatures to request the country's electoral council to call a referendum. The deadline for submitting the signatures is in April.
The coalition plans to submit a first package of 360,000 signatures in January and the remaining signatures by April. The coalition, which calls itself YASunidos, aims to collect more than 800,000 signatures.
YASunidos includes student organizations, environmental NGOs and other civil society groups.
The ITT comprises three large oil fields—Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini. The block is believed to hold 900 million barrels of oil.
A portion of the land where the drilling would take place is inside the Yasuni National Park, a Unesco world biosphere reserve and the country's largest nature reserve, located in the Amazon rain forest.
President Rafael Correa's administration has accused members of YASunidos and the environmental NGO Fundación Pachamama, which also opposes the ITT development, of being involved in a disturbance last week against members of foreign diplomatic delegations during protests against a licensing round for other oil properties. Both organizations denied the accusations.
Pachamama was banned by the government last week for an alleged attack on a Chilean diplomat and plans to appeal in court.
Photo caption: President Rafael Correa
By Simeon Tegel
For a region famous for “machismo,” Latin America is about to take an unlikely step: elect a record number of women presidents.
In Chile, moderate socialist former President Michelle Bachelet — whose admirers include Hillary Clinton — is widely expected to crush her conservative opponent, also a woman, in a runoff vote on Dec. 15.
With women leaders already in power in Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica, that means Latin America will boast four female heads of state for the first time.
The future also looks bright for female leadership as women are in key positions for up-coming elections. In Ecuador, National Assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira is being considered the heir apparent to current president Rafael Correa, who leaves office in three years.
The breakthrough comes as women’s issues are going global, from Malala Yousafzai demanding education in Pakistan to a campaign for more female board members in the United States. Many countries are also grappling with how to include more women in politics, while a few still want to exclude them.
It turns out the inclusionists could look to Latin America for answers.
Irune Aguirrezabal, of U.N. Women, the United Nations agency that promotes female political participation, said Latin America’s women presidents are “historic” in a region where extreme sexism — including horrific violence against women — has deep roots.
The achievement also strengthens democracy, she said, allowing women to buy into a system that has often left women out, or worse.
“When women are elected to high office, they become inspiring role models for others,” Aguirrezabal said in an interview.
“They show that women can be empowered and that allows other women to view themselves not just as vulnerable or victims, but as true citizens.”
The effect could be particularly profound in Central America, given the intensity of “machista” abuse there, said Melida Guevara, a gender campaigner for international aid group Oxfam in the region.
She was speaking before the results of Honduras’ Nov. 24 presidential election, in which another woman, Xiomara Castro, came second after leading her male rivals for months in the polls.
A political newcomer and the wife of deposed President Manuel Zelaya, Castro has shaken up an entrenched two-party system with her new left-wing Libre coalition.
She claims the vote was fraudulent and has now succeeded in pushing election authorities to review the results.
“The political class in Honduras still needs a lot of work before it will accept that everyone has an equal right to participate in government,” Guevara said. “Castro has been very tough just to be in contention.”
The rise of Latina candidates and presidents may not be such a surprise thanks to quotas in 16 Latin American nations that have helped achieve record numbers of female lawmakers in the region.
Roughly 1 in 4 legislators here is a woman. Only Scandinavia has a higher proportion.
The U.S., by comparison, is some way behind, with women making up just 17.9 percent of the House of Representatives and 20 percent of the Senate.
While critics claim quotas lead to women being elected based on sex rather than merit, proponents say they merely level the playing field. Either way, Latin America needs more decision-makers intent on remedying bleak realities for many women here.
According to U.N. Women, 69 percent of Latin American women have been physically abused by their partners and 47 percent have been victims of sexual violence at least once.
Perhaps even more disturbing, Latin America has high rates of “femicide,” the act of killing a woman simply because she is a woman.
Ten of the 25 countries in the world with the highest femicide rates from 2004 to 2009 were Latin American, with El Salvador and Guatemala Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, according to the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based think-tank.
That partly reflects a broader wave of violence engulfing much of Central America, with Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador each besieged by drug cartels and deadly street gangs known as “maras.”
But the trend is also rooted in deep-seated cultural attitudes that see women as servile to men — and even blame them for being female.
Some 70 million women joined the Latin American workforce in the last 20 years, helping reduce regional poverty by 30 percent as a result. But even women with higher education and formal employment still earn 17 percent less than their male counterparts.
“We have not got to that point yet,” said Guevara, who is based in El Salvador, when asked about equal pay. “Right now, the most important issue here is protecting women against violence.”
Nevertheless, Latin America is slowly changing, with both women and men benefiting from more egalitarian views of the sexes.
Elba Nunez, the Paraguay-based coordinator of CLADEM, a nonprofit working on gender issues across Latin America, cites how men increasingly take on household chores. Some even change their children’s diapers, something that would have been unthinkable in much of the region 20 years ago.
And El Salvador has just passed a law mandating three days of paternity leave. If that sounds like peanuts, it’s worth recalling that the US is one of just a handful of countries that does not even recognize maternity leave as a legal right.
“We have made significant advances,” Nunez added. “Most constitutions in Latin America now recognize gender equality. But we still have a long way to go, especially for reproductive and sexual rights.”
But there still remains a long way to go before many women in the region are able to actually enjoy rights they’ve already won on paper.
“We have super beautiful laws but the question is how do we manage to get them enforced when there are so few resources and so much resistance?” Guevara asked.
The answer may well come from the new generation of female leaders, who, like the woman many tip as the next U.S. president, Hillary Clinton, haven’t shied from championing women’s issues.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, tweeting to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, on Nov. 25, described her country as still being “sexist and prejudiced.”
Meanwhile, Bachelet has spent much of her time since stepping down from her first term as Chilean president in 2010 by heading U.N. Women.
Although change may still seem slow, it’s likely to pick up as more women politicians come to the fore, a regional trend that may have seemed impossible just a few years ago.
Credit: The World News, http://worldnews.nbcnews.com; Photo captions: Chilean presidential candidate Michelle Bachelet, left, and her opponent Evelin Matthei before a presidential debate; Ecuador's National Assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira.
Ecuador’s stock market has posted a 24% gain through the first three quarters of 2013 and financial experts say the gain will top 30% by the end of the year.
The small Guayaquil- and Quito-based exchange says that the cash value of trades for its 47 public companies increased from $112 million to $139 million since January. The exchange says it believes that gains will continue in 2014 as new tax breaks for foreign investors take effect.
The largest gains on the market were posted by dairy product producer Tonicorp, S.A., and Corporación Favorita, C.A.
Tonicorp sold a majority interest to the Mexican company Arca Continental, Latin America’s largest Coca Cola bottler, earlier this year. Corporación Favorita owns Supermaxi and Gran Aki supermarkets, SuCasa home supply stores and Radio Shack Ecuador, among other retail outlets.
Beginning in 2014, foreign investors in Ecuador’s stock market will be exempt from the country’s 5% exit tax for funds wired out of the country, if money remains in the country for 12 months.
High-end hotel planned for Quito airport
The investment group Pronobis will begin construction in January on a $17 million, 160,000 meter, 140-room hotel adjacent to the new Quito airport.
To be called the Wyndham Grand Hotel Condor, the hotel will include conference space, classrooms, offices and small meeting rooms and hopes to attract corporate and government business that is currently conducted in Quito.
Pronobis says there is need for both lodging and business meeting facilities close to the airport because of the drive-time to Quito, which varies from one to two hours, depending on traffic.
Movistar ordered to improve Cuenca service
Ecuador's Superintendency of Telecommunications (Supertel) has ordered Movistar Ecuador to submit a plan to improve service quality in Cuenca and several other locations.
The regulator said that monitoring has detected the existence of problems with Movistar's rate of dropped calls. Supertel said the dropped call rate in Cuenca topped 7.36 percent in October, well above the agency's limit of 2 percent.
Movistar’s market share in Cuenca has been dropping in Cuenca in recent years against Claro, which controls about 65 percent of phone lines.
Photo caption: Supermaxi supermarkets are owned by Corporacion Favorita.
Cuenca traffic police are warning drivers to stay out of specially designated bus lanes in El Centro. Bus lanes are located on Calles Juan Jaramillo, President Córdova, Sangurima and Muñoz Vega, and plans are in the works to add them to other streets, including Gil Ramirez Davalos and Av. Las Americas.
Police acknowledge that following bus lane rules is difficult for many drivers since enforcement in the past as been lax.
“We realize that this will take some time to adapt to since drivers are in the habit of using bus lanes,” says Dario Tapia, manager of Cuenca’s Office of Municipal Mobility. “But this is part of our new bus transportation system and we have to enforce the law.”
Tapia says that tigher controls began last week and his office has assigned 40 traffic police to make sure bus lanes are reserved for buses.
Both private and taxi drivers have complained to Tapia’s office about the change. “Most of the time the bus lanes are empty and the rest of us are sitting in traffic jams,” says taxi driver Jaime Mendieta. “Maybe it makes things faster for buses but everyone else suffers.”
Birds species counted in Cuenca
Cuenca is counting its birds, so far identifying 80 species living in the city and suburbs.
The city’s Environmental Management Commission has enlisted the University of Azuay and professional ornithologists to conduct the survey. The project began in March and will conclude in early 2014 with the publication of a guide of area birds.
In addition to counting species, the work includes identifying endangered species. The work updates a survey conducted in 2003.
Danilo Mejía, who heads up the project, explained that the monitoring covers Cuenca and its suburbs and says locations with the highest number of birds are El Barranco, Parque Paraiso, the Rios Tomebamba Yanuncay greenways and forested areas in Turi and Pumapungo.
Mejía points out that the birds of Cuenca represent a small portion of birds within a short distance of the city. Within 40 kilometers, he says, there are more than 600 species as result of an elevation range of 3,500 to almost 15,000 feet. There are 1,600 bird species in Ecuador, the most for any country of its size in the world.
Among the most common birds in Cuenca are the house sparrow and barn owl, Mejía says.
Photo caption: One of several hawks identified in the Cuenca area.
By Gonzalo Solano and Frank Bajak
Investigative journalist Juan Carlos Calderon received multiple death threats after launching something rare in the claustrophobic media climate of today’s Ecuador, a digital magazine exposing high-level corruption.
To Calderon, the threats were a backhanded compliment for his inaugural story in Plan V that outlined multimillion-dollar insurance fraud affecting state institutions. He brushed them off until a pair of menacing-looking men showed up at his condo complex looking for his home.
‘‘When they get to your family, to your house, things change,’’ he said.
Although physical attacks on journalists are rare in Ecuador, in contrast to such countries at Colombia, Peru and Mexico, the profession faces increasingly hostility, and international press freedom and human rights groups place the blame squarely on President Rafael Correa.
The third-term president is widely popular for generously spending the OPEC nation’s oil wealth on social programs. Nonetheless, Correa has shown little tolerance for criticism.
‘‘The president has viewed the press as the enemy from the moment he took office. He considers us his only enemy because there is no political opposition,’’ said Janet Hinostroza, who resigned as a daily TV news anchor last year after a crescendo of threats peaked with a phone call detailing her young son’s daily movements and threatening to kidnap him.
Jose Miguel Vivanco, regional director for U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, said Correa’s ‘‘high level of intolerance for criticism’’ has led to media regulations and multimillion-dollar legal judgments against journalists, all of which have intimidated the press into self-censorship and undermined freedom of expression.
Calderon faced bankruptcy a year ago when Correa won a $1.1 million defamation judgment over his reports that the president’s brother illegally received state contracts after Correa’s election. The judge did not rule on the report’s accuracy.
Correa pardoned Calderon, just as he pardoned critics at the opposition newspaper El Universo, against whom he had won a $42 million defamation judgment.
‘‘I'm forgiving,’’ Correa said then. ‘‘I'm not forgetting.’’
The Associated Press left phone messages and sent emails to Correa’s director of communications, Fernando Alvarado, seeking comment but received no response.
The harassment campaign has even crossed international borders. Pro-government protesters assailed Hinostroza in New York in late November as she accepted a press freedom award at a gala fundraiser for the Committee to Protect Journalists. About 150 pickets stood outside the Waldorf Astoria Hotel chanting and carrying signs branding Hinostroza a traitor and a liar. Back home, virulent attacks on social media spiked against her.
Correa ‘‘says we conspire against him, but all we've done is expose corruption in his government or been critical,’’ Hinostroza said by phone after returning to Ecuador, where she now has a weekly TV news show and writes a column for the newspaper Hoy.
Hinostroza and Calderon have long been among Correa’s main targets in his weekly TV and radio appearances.
Most Saturdays, the president commandeers the airwaves for several hours, just as the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did, and disparages journalists as ‘‘puppets of the oligarchy’’ and ‘‘miserable assassins of ink.’’
Jorge Imbaquingo, a former newspaper journalist now employed by Universidad de Las Americas in Quito, said Correa’s efforts to blame ‘‘all the country’s ills on journalism’’ foments open hostility against reporters.
‘‘Sometimes people insult you. They say, ‘Get out of here,’ when you’re trying to cover a news event. Sometimes they spit at you,’’ Imbaquingo said.
Correa’s administration also has squeezed newspapers and broadcasters by withholding advertising and encouraging private businesses to do the same.
A law passed in June further tightened the screws by creating two media regulatory bodies that have been packed with Correa loyalists — the Information Authority and the Communications Regulation Council.
The bodies have the power to levy fines on media deemed guilty of slander or discrimination. Those offenses haven’t been clearly defined, however, spawning fears the bodies will act arbitrarily to silence critical media into submission.
A statute fleshing out the law is pending, and is expected to also apply to speech on social media.
News organizations can now be fined 10 percent of their revenues for the previous three years, which would bankrupt them. A previous law passed under Correa had already restricted the financial resources of owners of independent news media by barring them from holding interests in other economic sectors.
Calderon invested his own money to help fund Plan V — which Cesar Ricaurte, the director of the press freedom group Fundamedios, calls the last redoubt of investigative journalism in Ecuador.
Its staff mostly followed Calderon from the magazine Vanguardia, which was founded in 2005 and folded in June. He said there’s enough money to pay salaries and rent for six months.
Indeed, Calderon said, journalism is ‘‘the most elegant way to be poor.’’
Credit: Associated Press, www.ap.org; Photo caption: President Rafael Correa
The Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES) has interviewed more than 386 unrepaid members of the failed financial cooperative Coopera to assess their need for government assistance.
MEIS says that 106 members remain to be contacted, 98 declined interviews while 17 will be interviewed in coming weeks. The government says that there are a total of 607 members who have not been repaid since the June collapse of Coopera.
MEIS says that 52% of the unrepaid members already receive some form of government support.
Azuay Governor Humberto Cordero says that interviews have determined that 316 families with investments in Coopera need various forms of assistance, including educational, health and housing, and are being assigned to government agencies. He said that 70 families were found not to need assistance.
MIES says that 55.5% of the unpaid members are aged 50 and older while 20% are between 40 and 50.
Some Coopera members and creditors said the government assistance falls short of repairing the damage of their financial loss. Creditor and member José Montesinos, who attended a meeting with MEIS two weeks ago, says his account with Coopera was intended to offset a debt that the cooperative owed him. “The government is not helping me with this and I am still hoping that after the assets are sold that there will be money to repay me.” The government estimates that there is about $1,800,000 owed to creditors.
Meanwhile, Coopera liquidator Diego Aguilar says he has asked the University of Cuenca to evaluate the value of food markets, inns and restaurtants owned by Coopera, prior to opening bids.
Aguilar reports that about 500 of the unpaid Coopera members had accounts of less than $90,000, while 105 had accounts of $90,000 to $700,000 and four had accounts of $700,000 to $2.2 million.
Money laudering and embezzlement charges are pending against 10 Coopera managers and members following their arraignment in early November.
Christmas lights up the town
This is Cuenca’s brightest Christmas ever, according to the muicipal lighting office. Lighting director Rolando Arpi says that the number of holiday lights has been doubled from 100,000 in 2012 to 200,000 this year.
Arpi says that electrified Christmas arrangements, including nativity scenes, candles and Christmas trees, have been extended further east and west on the banks of the Tomebamba River this year, streteching from the El Vergel Plaza to Otorongo Plaza. Setting up the decorations required more than 5,000 meters of wiring, he said. The lights were turned on earlier this week, and will remain until January 6. Lighting hours are 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Christmas lights on city streets have also been extended, particularly in the historic district, Arpi says.
Cuenca’s six-meter-tall Christmas is set up at El Vergel Plaza. In previous years it was in Parque Calderon, on Calle Scure.
Photo captions: The Cuenca financial cooperative Coopera was closed by the government in June; Christmas lights on the Tomebamba.
Fundacion Pachamama, an indigenous non-profit organization opposed to President Rafael Correa plan to drill for oil in Ecuador’s eastern jungles, says it will fight the government order to shut down its operations.
In its Wedneday order, the government alleged Pachamama was involved in a disturbance last week against members of foreign diplomatic delegations during protests against a licensing round for oil properties. It was charged, along with Yasunidos, another advocacy group, with attacking Chile's ambassador Juan Pablo Lira. Ecuador’s Interior Ministry justified the shut-down based on a charge of "affecting the public peace" and interfering in government business.
Pachamama officials deny all allegations. "We are peaceful," said Joke Baert, a Pachamama spokeswoman. "We defend human rights and environmental rights, and we have never promoted or supported violence. The government should carry out a deep investigation."
Mario Melo, lawyer for Pachamama, said the NGO is analyzing the government's decision and will file legal action against in national and international courts, including the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Pachamama has worked with Yasunidos is an environmental group that is collecting signatures to ask for a referendum on development of the ITT oil block, located at Yasuni National Park, famous for its biodiversity.
Ecuadorean state-run oil company Petroamazonas will begin developing the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini oil block in 2014 and could start production in 2016.
In June, the Correa administration issued a decree that creates new procedures for NGOs to obtain legal status. The rules require international organizations to undergo a screening process to seek permission to work in Ecuador and grants powers to the government to oversee and dissolve NGOs. The government claims that many NGOs interfere with government affairs and are funded from courses outside the country.
Photo caption: Representives of Fundacion Pachamama meet the press on Thursday, explaining their legal strtegy after the government shut-down.
The creation of jobs is still post-recession America's and Europe’s nightmare.
In September, the U.S. unemployment rate was 7.2 percent, a mere 0.6 percentage points lower than it was the previous year, whereas in the European Union it was 12.2 percent, a point percentage increase from 2012 -- hardly an attractive job scenario.
Despite the bleak numbers, young Latin Americans are flocking by the thousands to both the U.S. and Europe in search of better opportunities.
Oddly enough, many educated young Europeans are heading in the opposite direction to find work.
In countries forming part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which concentrates 70 percent of the worldwide trade in goods and services, the number of skilled immigrants went up from 12 million to 20 million in the last 10 years, according to UNESCO -- and they were mostly from developing countries. This coincides with a spike in the number of Latin Americans with advanced degrees, which went from 30 million to 40 million from 1996 to 2007, according to the World Bank.
Latin America has become an attaractive destination for educated youth from European countries in deep economic crisis, like Spain, Italy and Portugal, which suffer from unemployment as high as 26% in the case of Spain. Latin American countries such as Brazil, Chile and Ecuador with strong economies, have attracted thousands of workers, most of them professionals.
Through 2014, Ecuador expects to hire as many as 8,000 primary and university level teachers from Spain, most at salaries competitive to jobs lost in the recession. The government is also courting Spanish and Italian medical doctors and hopes to hire 2,000 to 3,000.
However, numbers from the World Bank show that several Latin American countries have experienced a veritable exodus themselves -- reaching even 90 percent of skilled workers in some Caribbean nations.
Governments have reacted in different ways to stop the trend. The growing economies of Brazil and Mexico, for instance, have decided to change the term “brain drain” to “talent flux,” symbolizing the moving world economy, according to Raúl Delgado Wise, director of the International Network of Migration and Development.
“Many countries in the region are turning a hypothetical problem into an opportunity,” Javier Botero, a specialist in higher education at the World Bank, told Spanish newspaper El País. “Globalization is making world mobility a reality. Latin America should take advantage of the people who are abroad to work on national projects.”
José Pablo Arellano from Cieplán, a Chilean think tank that studies public policies in Latin America, said that the continent could also take advantage of the talent flux. “With growing companies, countries like Perú and Chile are not only keeping talent, but attracting it.”
Countries should also increase the incentives to bring back talent. “The region needs to create more jobs to satisfy the demands of a highly educated population,” said Botero.
Credit: IBIM Times; http://www.ibtimes.com; Photo caption: Unemployed workers in Spain
Cuenca’s new bus system is causing widespread confusion among city commuters.
Called integrated transport by the city’s transportation office, the new system is based around two transfer stations where passengers can change buses at no additional cost. The city says that when the system is fully functional, it will reduce travel time and the total distance covered by buses. It will also take about 80 buses off historic district streets.
On Monday and Tuesday, hundreds of passengers complained of long waits at bus stops and some said their buses did come at all. Some were apparently unaware of bus route changes. Because of the delays, public schools were forced to give passes to late-arriving students.
Boris Palacios, director of municipal transit, said that will be adjustment problems with the new system for both passengers and bus drivers. “Many passengers did not pay attention to our public information campaign about new routes and some weren’t aware of the changes at all,” he said. “Once everyone knows about the new transfer system and new routes, they will understand that this approach is more efficient than the old one. One of our objectives is to reduce air pollution in the city center and people will appreciate this too.
Palacio said that passengers can see the new bus route map in several locations around town, including at the new transfer terminals at Feria Libre on Av. Las Americas or at Terminal Terrestre on Av. España. He added that the transportation office has sent out agents to the busier bus stops to explain changes and hand out brochures.
Cost of Cigarettes and beer going up
By the weekend, customers will see price increases for both cigarettes and beer in city supermarkets, tiendas and mercados. The increases are the result of a decision by distributors and producers.
The cost of a Pilsner grande (600cc) rises from 90 cents to a dollar. It is the fourth increase since 2008 when the cost to consumers was 67 cents.
Cigarettes will cost about 20 cents more per pack, according to store owners.
Fernando Luzuriaga, a tienda owner on Presidente Córdova, says he doesn’t believe the price increases will affect business. “It’s a small increase and customers will continue buying their favorite brands.”
City designates Christmas sales locations
Cuenca’s office of Historical and Heritage Areas has designated locations in the historic district where traders can sell Christmas and New Year's products from today through January 6. The products for sale will include ornaments, cards, nativity arrangements and New Year’s fireworks, masks and dummies.
The locations are the area to the right of Iglesia de San Francisco, the corner of Padre Aguirre and President Córdova, Plaza San Francisco and the Calle Sucre sidewalk to the south of the cathedral.
The heritage office said that new restrictions on the type of fireworks that can be sold will be strictly enforced by Cuenca’s Citizen Guard.
Photo caption: New bus transfer station on Av. Las Americas.
Citizens of Quito are demanding that the city do something about the dead dogs that litter streets and highways.
Residents of one neighborhood walked two Quito city councilmen through area streets last week, pointing out the remains of two dogs killed in traffic. “These have been here for weeks,” said Juan Gonzalez who lives in the Av. Mariscal Sucre area of central Quito. “They stink and they cause disease. We need help in cleaning this up.”
A television cameraman accompanying the councilmen, trained his camera on an dog carcass surrounded by a cloud of flies.
The operations manager for the city solid waste department says that his employees can remove only about 20 dog carcasses a week. “This is only a tiny fraction of dead dogs that need to be taken away,” said Milton Rubio, operations manager. “There are probably 200 that don’t get picked up each week.”
Rubio says he is talking to city officials, requesting funds to hire additional personnel to remove the road kill.
Rubio says there are an estimated 372,000 stray dogs in Quito, the majority of them living in populated areas.
Ecuador seeks EU trade, says it’s not free trade
Ecuador hopes to sign a trade agreement with the European Union by early 2014, President Rafael Correa said Friday, saying that it would not lead to an outright free trade pact.
"We will negotiate and seek to sign an accord with the European Union, but not at any price," the president said in an interview with La Voz de Arenillas radio in Ecuador.
Correa in May 2009 called off talks with the EU, saying that the trade deal then being proposed was in fact a free trade agreement despite "whatever pretty name" the Brussels-based bloc was putting on it.
Correa has declared his opposition to free trade pacts, arguing that they harm the development of local industry. Ecuador is the world's biggest banana exporter and the EU is one of its top markets.
"We hope to reach an agreement by the beginning of next year," he said, noting that his country had "red lines" on public spending. Ecuador spends at least $5 billion to help small- and medium-sized businesses.
Since then, Correa has been engaged in a terminology dispute with some left-wing critics who claim that the deal he seeks with the EU is, fact, a free trade agreement. “He pretends this is somehow different than the free trade agreements he opposed when he came into office,” says Paúl Ramirez, member of the People’s Solidarity movement. “Actually, it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Auction for oil drilling in Yasuni gets only four bids
An auction of oil drilling rights in the Amazon jungle has produced only four bids for the Ecuadorian government. It is estimated that there are about 1.5 billion barrels of oil in the area, on the edge of Yasuni National Park, one of the world's most important ecological reserves.
The decision to drill for oil in Yasuni created a firestorm of protest in August when President Rafael Correa announced the decision, saying the country needed the resources.
Ecuador Minister of Non-Renewable Natural Resources, Pedro Merizalde, said that Spain’s Repsol and China’s Andes Petroleum had made offers for three blocks. Ecuadorean authorities are expected to take five months to finalize the awarding of the blocks, and may seek more bids.
Ecuadorean state oil producer Petroamazonas, in partnership with Chile's Enap and Belarus's Belorusneft, will begin the development of a fourth block.
"In order to incorporate new reserves that will make it possible to raise the country's production levels, the Ecuadorean government will guarantee the use of new technologies, operated by companies committed to national development," Merizalde told reporters.