Cuenca Mayor-elect Marcelo Cabrera emphasized on Friday that he had no intention of stopping the Tranvia de los Cuatros Rios tram project and does not think the changes his administration might make will affect the construction schedule.
Cabrera met with outgoing Mayor Paul Granda to discuss the changeover of government in May.
“Some people have the idea that I am against the Tranvia,” Cabrera said. “This is not true. It is an important part of the transportation plan for the city and I want the work to continue.” He said that any changes would follow a review of all reports and documents and most would not be noticed the public.
Granda thanked Cabrera for his supoort of the project, saying it had great personal significance for him.
In addition to the tram, Granda and Cabrera also discussed plans for construction of low income housing, a new ring-road freeway to be built around the city, reconstruction of San Francisco Plaza and other projects.
Granda said he has asked his staff to provide Cabrera with all reports and documents that have been requested. “We want to make the transition as smooth so that the government of Cuenca can continue to provide residents with high quality services,” he said.
The two men talked briefly with the press before meeting privately at the mayor’s office.
Photo captions: Granda and Cabrera meet the press Friday; Cabrera says the light rail project will continue.
Federal agents from Central Florida have arrested a man who was allegedly coordinating "tours" for Americans to have sex with girls in Ecuador.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Orlando on Friday, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents began investigating Patrick Minga, 50, in August, after he posted an ad on Craigslist about "sex tours" in Ecuador.
Minga, who has lived for several years in Ecuador, was involved in a Quito business that operated a hotel and provided “relocation services” to North Americans relocating to Ecuador.
"We have the best females from Colombia and Ecuador," his advertisement said. "Lodging, food and unlimited females for $1,395 for 7 days."
An undercover agent responded to the ad, and said he was part of a small group of men looking for a trip.
Minga, who used to live in Cape Coral but moved to Ecuador several years ago, responded to the undercover detective, stating that "we specialize in taboo."
The undercover agent told Minga he wanted to have sex with young girls.
Minga said he could arrange the sex in his wife's hometown of San Jose de Minas, and said "he ran the whole town," the complaint said.
During a series of conversations, Minga told the undercover detective he's been involved in sex tourism for many years and it is "very clean" in Ecuador.
Minga called the agent in late August and told him "the girls are ready." A few days later, he emailed the agent a picture of six girls, the complaint said.
In September, Minga told the agent he needed a deposit because, "I have to go driving around with my nephew and start giving out lollipops and telling them that there's a possibility that your whole life could change…"
Minga said he finds girls in indigenous areas.
Minga traveled from Ecuador to Huntsville, Ala., earlier this week.
On Friday, agents went to a home there and confronted Minga, the complaint said. He was arrested on a charge of coercion or enticement of a minor. He will be extradited from Alabamba to Florida, officials say.
Photo caption: Mug shot of Patrick Minga following his arrest.
The campaign to force a national referendum on President Rafael Correa’s plan to drill for oil in the Amazonian Yasuní nature preserve is closing in on its goal of 600,000 signatures. Supporters of the drive say they have more than 480,000 signatures.
A total of 584,324 signatures, or 5% of registered Ecuadoiran voters, must be turned in to the National Electoral Council (CNE) by April 12 to qualify for a national vote.
According Antonela Calle, a leader of the anti-drilling campaign, more than 60,000 volunteers are participating in the drive. “We are certain that we will reach 600,000 and hope to collect more since all the signatures will not be valid,” she said.
The petition asks potential signers the question, “Do you agree that the Ecuadorian government should keep oil in the Yasuní-ITT block in the ground indefinitely?”
In Cuenca, petition takers are posted in several locations in Parque Calderon during daylight hours.
When voter petitions are turned in to CNE by campaign managers in April, the government has 15 days to validate signatures. Within 15 days CNE must announce the result and prepare for an election if the amount of signatures meet the legal threshhold.
In August, President Rafael Correa announced the government would proceed with plans to extract Yasuní oil, following the failure of a plan to have other countries pay to keep it in the ground. “The world has failed us,” Correa said, and said Ecuador needed the revenue to continue to develop. He ordered studies to determine extraction methods that would result in the least amount of environmental damage to the area.
Those opposed to oil drilling announced they would begin collecting voter signatures to force a national vote on the issue.
In September, polls showed overwhelming voter opposition to drilling but after Correa stumped the issue, polls in December showed 55% support.
In 2007, Correa had announced a plan that asked other countries to contribute $3.6 billion to maintain a moratorium on drilling in Yasuní. The area was declared a biosphere reserve by the United Nations in 1989 and is home to a number of indigenous groups.
Photo caption: Protesters of the Yasuni oil drilling plan in Quito, in September.
When a prominent Mexican businessman last year criticised women for balancing careers and families, it seemed a step backward for equality in Latin America.
Women “are doing badly because they want to do everything”, Ricardo Salinas Pliego, owner of Elektra, the Mexican electronics company and TV Azteca, the broadcaster, said at a business summit in October.
Such remarks are less common than in the past in a region where some of the leading countries are governed by women, including Dilma Rousseff, president of Brazil, Michelle Bachelet, president-elect of Chile, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, president of Argentina.
But the incident serves as a reminder that machismo is not easily eliminated.
A 2013 survey by McKinsey, the consultancy, found that 8 per cent of members of the executive committees of 348 listed companies in Latin America were women. More executives recognise gender diversity is a strategic priority (at 37 per cent, up from 21 per cent in 2010). But progress can be slow.
An obvious barrier is the cultural perception that Latin American women should look after families while men go to work.
Seventy per cent of executives in Latin America surveyed by McKinsey believed that family pressures push at least some women to leave jobs. This was much lower in Asia, at 57 per cent, when the survey was conducted there in 2012.
Claudia Politanski, senior vice-president for legal affairs at Itaú-Unibanco, the largest Brazilian private bank, recalls the difficulties of managing work and children in the early stages of her career.
“The major responsibility for my daughters fell on me,” she says. “It was very exhausting but I did not see space to discuss it. I had to be at work [all the time]. I had to be available to travel, work weekends and long hours.”
The lack of women at the top can perpetuate the problem, with younger women having few female role models or mentors. Women sometimes feel they have to work harder than men to be promoted or listened to by men.
For example, Itaú’s workforce is 59 per cent female but only 9 per cent of the bank’s directors are women. Mrs Politanski is the only woman on Itaú’s nine-member executive board.
“If I had more women sitting with me on the executive committee, it would be easier to convey my vision,” she says.
Ana Gabriela Pessoa is head of innovation at Grupo Multi, a language school chain in Brazil acquired last year by Pearson, which also owns the Financial Times. She says women are still under-represented in technology and innovation.
“I always felt like I was one of the few women in Brazil doing this,” she says. That led Ms Pessoa to recruit talented women and to offer mentoring to women in her sector.
Verônica Serra, a Chile-born entrepreneur, has sought to be a role model. Ms Serra, the daughter of José Serra, the former Brazilian presidential candidate, made her fortune investing in two successful Latin American start-ups: the financial portal Patagon.com and MercadoLivre, a Nasdaq listed e-commerce retailer.
In 2001, she launched Pacific Investimentos, a private equity fund, which has at least one female professional for every two men.
“The fact that I have grown and done relatively well in a male-dominated environment makes me more open to not just accepting but also attracting women into the office,” she says. “They feel this is a place where they can thrive and do better.”
Elsewhere, companies in Latin America are starting to recognise the need to retain female talent. Institutional support is increasing through flexible hours, remote working arrangements and paid maternity leave (three months in Latin America on average, although it is six months in some countries).
Latin American women are learning to be more outspoken in the workplace. Andrea Alvares, a general manager at PepsiCo in Brazil, offers an example. Ms Alvares became pregnant during her second year in Argentina leading PepsiCo’s marketing division in the region. After two years during which her husband commuted every weekend from São Paulo to Buenos Aires, she had had enough.
“I did raise my hand to say that it was a bit tough to be without my husband in a different country, two kids and having just had my third child,” she says. “I was very vocal and open with the company ... and that eventually helped me to reach a higher position in my home country.”
For Mr Salinas and those like him who believe only superwomen can succeed, showing human fallibility might not be a bad thing.
As Eunice de Carvalho, Chevron’s Brazil manager and a mother of five, notes: “Some days I am a great mum and not so terrific businesswoman and other days I am a terrific businesswoman and not a great mum. But, on balance, most days I feel I can do both.”
Credit: The Financial Times, www.ft.com; Photo caption: Brazilian and Chilean presidents Dilma Rousseff, left, and Michelle Bachelet
By Joseph Ax
An American lawyer used "corrupt means" to secure a multi-billion-dollar pollution judgment against Chevron Corp in Ecuador, a U.S. judge ruled on Tuesday, a major setback for Ecuadorean villagers hoping to collect on the award.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said he found "clear and convincing evidence" that attorney Steven Donziger's legal team used bribery, fraud and extortion in pursuit of an $18 billion judgment against the oil company issued in 2011.
The villagers had said Texaco, later acquired by Chevron, contaminated an oil field in northeastern Ecuador between 1964 and 1992. Ecuador's high court cut the judgment to $9.5 billion last year.
But regardless of whether there is pollution at the site, Kaplan said, Donziger cannot use a "Robin Hood" defense to justify illegal behavior.
Kaplan's decision bars Donziger and the villagers from enforcing the Ecuadorean ruling in the United States. It may also give Chevron legal ammunition in other countries where the plaintiffs could try to go after Chevron's assets.
At a six-week trial last year, Chevron accused Donziger of fraud and racketeering and said Texaco cleaned up the site, known as Lago Agrio, before handing it over to a state-controlled entity.
Donziger, who has repeatedly leveled accusations of bias against Kaplan and who predicted he would lose the case, called Tuesday's decision "appalling" and blamed Kaplan's "implacable hostility" toward him and his Ecuadorean clients.
"Through this decision, we now have the spectacle of a Manhattan trial judge purporting to overrule Ecuador's Supreme Court on questions of Ecuadorean law," he said in a written statement. He vowed to appeal and said the ruling would not stop his clients from seeking to enforce the judgment in other countries.
Chevron no longer has significant assets in Ecuador, and the villagers have tried to enforce the ruling in Canada, Argentina and Brazil.
Chevron Chief Executive John Watson said the ruling was "a resounding victory."
The company is expected to use Kaplan's decision to defend itself against claims abroad. In a statement, the company said, "Any court that respects the rule of law will find the Lago Agrio judgment to be illegitimate and unenforceable."
Chevron and Ecuador also remain locked in an arbitration dispute in international court over cleanup costs at the site.
In Washington, the Ecuadorean embassy said in a statement that the decision "does not exonerate Chevron from its own legal and moral responsibilities resulting from its decades of contamination."
The decision caps a years-long battle in U.S. courts between Chevron and Donziger, pitting the company's vast resources against a lawyer who argued he was the victim of an unscrupulous corporation.
But Kaplan found that the evidence against Donziger was "voluminous," including things like coded emails, secret payments and clandestine meetings with judges that "normally come only out of Hollywood."
Kaplan said Donziger began pursuing the case with intentions to improve environmental conditions in Ecuador and make a living for himself, but ultimately corrupted the case by submitting fraudulent evidence, bribing a judge, ghost-writing the judgment and covering up his wrongdoing.
"The saga of the Lago Agrio case is sad," Kaplan wrote.
The judge said Texaco, and by extension Chevron, "might bear some responsibility" for pollution at the site but that it was irrelevant to the question of whether fraud had occurred.
"Justice is not served by inflicting injustice," Kaplan wrote. "The ends do not justify the means. There is no 'Robin Hood' defense to illegal and wrongful conduct."
During the non-jury trial, which ended in November, Kaplan heard from 31 witnesses and considered written testimony from 37 others. Chevron also introduced reams of documents, including Donziger's personal notebook, purporting to show that he was involved in a wide-ranging fraud.
Among the witnesses was the former Ecuadorean judge who issued the 2011 judgment, Nicolas Zambrano, who testified that he had received no money and had written the opinion without outside assistance.
But Kaplan agreed with Chevron that the evidence showed Zambrano did not write the ruling himself. Instead, Kaplan, said, the plaintiffs' team wrote the judgment, and Zambrano simply signed his name to it.
Another former Ecuadorean judge, Alberto Guerra, testified that Donziger's team paid him to ghost-write Zambrano's opinion. Donziger's lawyers pointed out that Chevron had compensated him for testifying and paid for his family's living expenses.
Chevron's lawyer, Randy Mastro of Gibson Dunn, pointed to sections of the ruling that appeared to be copied word-for-word from internal documents held by Donziger's team in Ecuador as proof, saying they were "like fingerprints."
Credit: Reuters News, www.reuters.com; Photo caption: Steven Donziger, attorney for Ecuadorian villagers in oil pollution suit.
Ecuador’s Ministry of Industry and Productivity reports that import restrictions applied in December have kept $250 million consumer dollars in the country, much of it spent on locally manufactured products.
The downside to the restrictions are becoming evident, however, as several Ecuadorian trade partners are beginning to complain.
The Government says it hopes to save more than $800 million in imports through the end of the year. Ramiro Gonzalez, Minister of Industry and Productivity, says that the first two months under the new rules have been a success. “The results prove that they help local industry to increase sales, which in turn creates growth and more jobs.”
The trade restrictions require imports in 293 categories to meet quality standards and bear new labeling. Importers claim that the new rules are expensive and are intended simply to keep products out of the country, a charge the government does not deny.
Talks continue between the government and national business groups who say that the economic damages caused by the restrictions are not counter-balanced by the gains in some business sectors. The government has agreed to postpone implementation of some import requirements, particularly in the area of raw materials, until cost - benefit assessments can be completed later this year.
In the meantime, Colombia, Ecuador’s largestt trade partner after the U.S., says it will begin putting restrictions on Ecuadorian imports if the new rules are not relaxed. Gonzalez is scheduled to talk to his Colombian counterpart later this month. The European Union has also said it was “concerned” about the new rules and said they could have a negative impact on ongoing trade negotiations between Ecuador and the E.U.
Landslides close roads in the Sierra
Heavy rains have caused more than a dozen major landslides in the Sierra, the largest obstructing traffic south of Quito and in the tourist town of Baños.
Closer to Cuenca, highway E35 was closed for several hours near Cumbe with another slide stopping traffic near Giron. Cuenca-bound traffic was diverted around the Giron slide via the old Tarqui highway.
Meteorologists say that as much as three inches of rain fell in some areas of the mountains Saturday and Sunday. Most of Ecuador’s Sierra has been in drought conditions since late fall and rain is badly needed. “The problem is that we can’t control the rain when it finally comes,” said Rafael Heredia, spokesman for the Quito airport weather station. “We need two or three more rains like this weekend’s to catch up"
Photo captions: Ramiro Gonzalez, Ecuador Minister of Industry: Landslide south of Cuenca.
If smuggling cocaine onto an airplane sounds dicey, then imagine navigating 2,000 miles on the open sea in a homemade submarine with half a ton of the white stuff and no oxygen tanks.
This 30-foot fiberglass sub can dive just 15 feet and stay under for a maximum of 15 minutes — barely long enough for passing coastguard patrols to disappear. It has no toilet, kitchen or, for that matter, legroom. Even four months after Ecuadorean police captured it at a clandestine dock deep in a mangrove forest, the smell of diesel fumes inside the vessel is overpowering.
The submersible highlights this nation’s burgeoning reputation as a transit point for cocaine out of the Andes and onward to the streets of New York, Sydney, Moscow and Bangkok. During a 10-day Pacific journey up to Mexico, its two-man crew would literally be sitting atop their cargo, with a street value in the United States of some $50 million.
The risk of being caught in an ocean swell or one of the hurricanes that annually batter Central America might make the common smuggling tactic of swallowing a cocaine-stuffed condom and boarding an international flight sound like a smart, safe thing to do. No wonder Juan Carlos Barragan, the police general in charge of Ecuador’s counternarcotics strategy, describes the rudimentary vessel now stored at a Guayaquil police base as a “death cage.”
According to the U.S. State Department, 110 metric tons of cocaine pass through Ecuador every year. Much of that makes its way through Guayaquil, the country’s largest city and principal port, with its excellent transport connections, including freeways and an international airport.
With no local tradition of growing or consuming coca, Ecuador has long reveled in its oddball status as an Andean nation that produces virtually no cocaine. In 2009 it had fewer than 62 acres of the troublesome bush, whose leaves are the key ingredient in cocaine, according to the most recent United Nations statistics.
Growing coca is outlawed here, unlike in Bolivia or Peru. In those countries, locals chew it or brew it into tea as a natural stimulant or medicine, just as they had done long before cocaine was invented by a German chemist in the 19th century. But geography is key: Ecuador is sandwiched between Peru and Colombia, the world’s Nos. 1 and 2 cocaine producers, respectively.
Together, the two leading growers have some 386 square miles of coca fields — almost the size of San Antonio, Texas — and some 90 percent of the global total. A growing amount of their exports is now passing through Ecuador. And, Barragan says, the drug flow is increasingly controlled by ruthless Mexican cartels that have drenched much of Central America in blood, triggering a gradual rise in narco-violence here.
The sub would have cost around $500,000 to manufacture, the undercover agent who tracked it down told GlobalPost. It’s just one of several captured in Ecuador and Colombia in recent years. Using submarines is just one of the increasingly ingenious — and often downright reckless — methods the cartels use to move their wares to market.
Probably Ecuador’s most famous product, bananas, has served as obvious cover. Plastic fruit packed with drugs is frequently found by sniffer dogs in the Guayaquil docks. In October 2012, Belgian authorities unearthed 8 metric tons of cocaine hidden in a banana shipment from Ecuador, one of the largest coke seizures anywhere. Another common tactic is for traffickers to hollow the stems of flowers, a major Ecuadorean export, and fill them with cocaine.
Falling U.S. demand drives new routes
Barragan estimates the authorities intercept roughly 30 percent of the cocaine passing through Ecuador. That of course means that more than two-thirds gets through.
“The drug traffickers are actually trying out lots of new routes, all over the place, especially to go to Europe and to Russia and even Australia,” he says. “One of the reasons for that is the growing demand there but also that there is a falling demand in the United States.”
Cocaine is actually thought to be more expensive Down Under than anywhere else on the planet, with a kilogram of the white stuff costing up to $300,000, according to the Australian Crime Commission. That makes the “Pacific route” one of the world’s most lucrative for drugs.
It made headlines in November 2012 when a yacht loaded with 450 pounds of cocaine, and the corpse of a Serbian national, washed up in Tonga. The ship set sail in August that year from Guayaquil with two people aboard, bound for Australia, before running into trouble. The cadaver was too badly decomposed for authorities to establish a cause of death. It remains unclear whether the other crewmember fell overboard or escaped alive.
In spite of all the cocaine that makes it past the authorities, Ecuador is scoring some major successes against the cartels.
Last year, officials seized more than 50 tons of the drug, based on preliminary numbers. In 2012, the figure was 42 tons, up from 26 tons the year before and 18 tons in 2010. Yet those figures are all smaller than the 2009 haul: a whopping 68 tons.
That was the last year that Washington still coordinated anti-drug operations in the country — until leftist President Rafael Correa ended the U.S. lease on the Manta military base. Correa regularly jousts with Washington, including booting out the U.S. ambassador in 2011 over the WikiLeaks cables and offering asylum to the website’s founder, Julian Assange.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington’s foreign aid arm, is now planning on pulling out of Ecuador by year’s end, despite having already earmarked $32 million of anti-poverty projects for the country, in frustration at what U.S. officials see as roadblocks from the Correa administration.
Scaling down the U.S.’s involvement in its counternarcotics strategy clearly hurt Ecuador’s capacity to fight the drug lords, at least temporarily, says Bruce Bagley, an expert on the drug trade at the University of Miami.
But Ecuador’s counternarcotics fight appears not to be a source of tension with Washington. “Correa has promised to extirpate drugs from the country,” Bagley adds. “The U.S. likes that kind of rhetoric. Although it regards Ecuador’s strategy as incoherent, it doesn’t want to fight with Ecuador and recognizes that there is a real will to confront the cartels.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s Ecuador office declined to comment for this story. But Washington has publicly recognized the country’s efforts to stem the flow of drugs across its borders. “The government has maintained Ecuador virtually free of coca production since the mid-1980s, and is working to combat money laundering and the transshipment of drugs and chemicals essential to the processing of cocaine,” the State Department notes.
Rather than spend too much time busting users and drug mules, Ecuador has set out to use intelligence to nab targets higher up the gangs’ chains of command. It was that straight-to-the-top approach, and a tip-off from an informant, that led agents to seize the submarine. And it has even earned the country accolades from the U.N.
Yet so long as there’s demand for cocaine in the U.S. and elsewhere, Ecuadorean law enforcement will have its work cut out to intercept as much drugs as possible.
And the smugglers are likely to continue attempting to outsmart them to get the white stuff to market.
Credit: http://www.globalpost.com: Photo Caption: A cocaine sub captured off Eucador’s coast.
By David Hill
The Ecuadorian government was negotiating a secret $1billion deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuni national park in the Amazon while pursuing a high-profile scheme to keep the oil under the ground in return for international donations, according to a government document seen by the Guardian.
The proposed behind-the-scenes deal, which traded drilling access in exchange for Chinese lending for Ecuadorian government projects, will dismay green and human rights groups who had praised Ecuador for its pioneering Yasuni-ITT Initiative to protect the forest. Yasuni is one of the most biodiverse places in the world and home to indigenous peoples – some of whom are living in what Ecuador's constitution calls "voluntary isolation".
The initiative – which was abandoned by Ecuador's government last year – is seen as a way to protect the Amazon, biodiversity and indigenous peoples' territories, as well as combat climate change, break Ecuador's dependency on oil and avoid causing the kind of social and environmental problems already caused by oil operations in the Ecuadorian rainforest.
"This raises serious doubts about whether the government was truly committed to keeping ITT oil in the ground," said Atossa Soltani, from NGO Amazon Watch and a former ambassador for the initiative. "While we were promoting the Yasuni initiative to donors, the government was offering ITT's crude to China."
The document, titled China Development Bank Credit Proposal, bears the name of Ecuador's Ministry of Economic Policy Co-ordination on every page. Under the heading Results of the 1st Negotiating Round: Preliminary agreements, which took place between 13-23 May 2009, it states: "Last minute clause: The Ecuadorian party has said it will do all it can to help PetroChina and Andes Petroleum explore ITT and Block 31."
ITT refers to the Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini oil fields – the first two under Yasuni, the last partially – and Block 31 is an oil concession immediately to the ITT's west. PetroChina is a listed company controlled by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), owned by the Chinese state, and Andes Petroleum is a joint venture between CNPC and another state-run Chinese firm.
The objective of the Chinese negotiators was in part to "guarantee the supply of crude oil for PetroChina in the medium term", while the Ecuadorian government wanted to "obtain access to a favourable line of credit to finance priority projects," the document says.
The proposed deal was that the China Development Bank, would lend "no less than US$1bn in the first phase" to "Ecuador's Ministry of Finance or an entity designated by Ecuador's government".
But while these negotiations were taking place, Ecuador was appealing to potential donors to support the Yasuni-ITT Initiative – a scheme that emerged from civil society and was adopted by president Rafael Correa's government in 2007, with a trust set up in 2008 to collect donations.
The details have changed over time, but the fundamental concept is to forgo exploiting the millions of barrels of oil in the ITT fields – estimated to be 20% of Ecuador's total oil deposits – in return for financial compensation.
In August last year Correa abandoned his government's support for the initiative and announced he wanted oil operations to go ahead – triggering protests and other opposition in Ecuador and abroad, a government backlash, and fervent speculation about why it failed.
Correa laid most of the blame on the lack of donations – just over US$2 million in the government trust and just under US$10 million in another trust set up in 2010 and administered by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), despite an ultimate target of US$3.6 billion.
However, others have pointed the finger at pressure from Ecuador's oil sector and the country's relationship with China, which has seen the former increasingly dependent on the latter for financing and Chinese companies' obtaining a near monopoly on Ecuador's oil and being linked to Yasuni in particular.
Correa himself has also been heavily criticised and accused of failing to convince potential donors he was serious about the initiative – especially given his refusal to abandon a "plan B" to exploit ITT and the fact that operations were permitted in Block 31 where deposits are so small that many see it as the first phase of an eventual move into ITT.
"The document shows that in 2009 Ecuador's government negotiated with China to do all it could so Chinese oil companies can explore in ITT and Block 31, contradicting the Yasuni-ITT Initiative that was in effect at the time," says Alexandra Almeida, from Ecuadorian NGO Acción Ecologica.
Last October it was agreed that donors to the UNDP trust could choose between having their donations returned or reinvested in other projects in Ecuador. To date, more than US$2m has been given back.
Ecuadorians who continue to support the Yasuni-ITT Initiative are aiming to force a referendum and must collect 600,000 signatures by 12 April – a move countered by the government, that wants its own referendum in favour of oil operations.
Rafael Correa's office declined to comment.
Credit: The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com; Photo captions: A Yasuni oil protester in Quito; An indigenous villiage inside the Yasuni preserve.
Following last week’s election defeat for President Rafael Correa’s PAIS party in the country’s largest cities, talk of changing the consitition to allow Correa to seek a third term has resurfaced.
The subject came up a year ago, following the 2013, election but was quashed when Correa said he planned to leave office in 2017. On Saturday, during his weekly television show, the president said has not ruled out the possibility of another term but was otherwise noncommittal.
Gabriela Rivadeneira, president of the National Assembly and a PAIS ally of the president said said that members of the assembly plan to bring up the subject for dedate. Since the consitition, adopted in 2008, allows a president to serve only two terms, a complicated process is required a change.
Although Rivadeneira denied that talk of changing the constitution was related to last Sunday’s defeat of PAIS candidates, some political observers said it indicated a fear that PAIS might lose the presidency in the 2017 election. “They are obviously running scared because of the election,” says Rafael Ortiz, a consultant for several candidates that defeated PAIS candidates in last week’s election.
In addition to Rivadeneira, former assembly president and current director of the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security (IESS) Fernando Cordero says that the PAIS supporters should rally behind a change of constitutional change.
"In PAIS, we have an undisputed leader in Rafael Correa. We should make the change that allows him to run for another term,” says Cordero. “His reelection would insure that the Citizen’s Revoluation will continue.”
The process to change the consititution requires a process of debates and vote of a super majority of the assembly. PAIS holds a comfortable majority in the assembly but it is not known if all party members and those allied with the party would vote for a change.
Before debate can begin, however, it must be formally proposed by either 8% of the country’s voters or by the president himself.
If Correa again says he is not interested in seeking a third term, the issue of a constitutional amendment is probably moot.
Last year, Correa said he had promised his Belgium-born wife that he would not run again, even if the consititution was changed. The family owns a home in Belgium and Correa has said he was considering returning to academic life at a European university. Correa earned his master degree in economics in Belgium and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in the U.S., and was a professor before running for president in 2006.
Photo caption: President Rafael Correa
It was noisy and it was slimy last night in Parque Calderon as two to three thousand Cuencanos, tourists and expats gathered for the kick-off of Carnival.
The crowd was treated to fireworks, music, dances and foam fights. Four pyrotechnic castles were ignited, spending rockets into the sky and sparks into the crowd. Vendors sold aerosol cans of foam that many in the crowd used to slime anyone who came near. Police officers patrolling the scene were a favorite target for the slimers.
Gladys Eljuri, director of the Cuenca Tourism Foundation, said the intention of the evening was to bring friends and strangers together and to tell the story of indigenous Taita Carnival tradition, which is native to Cañar and Azuay Provinces. “This is a great event and everyone seems to be having fun,” she said.
Eljuri saluted the Vanegas family, who has made it their life’s work to promote the Taita tradition and helped put together the evening’s entertainment. The family distributred brochures Thursday night telling the history of Taita.
Foreingn tourists and expats joined in the foam fights and dancing, many saying they are ready for more. Scott Garnett, a visitor from Texas, covered with foam from his engagement with nearby teenagers, stood on the side of Calle Simon Bolivar to watch the fireworks. “This is fabuous. I’m heading to some of the little towns over the weekend to get more of it.” He added: “And it’s hard to beat the sweet smell of gun powder wafting on the evening breeze.”
Mayor promises smooth transition to new administration
Cuenca Mayor Paúl Granda said he is in touch with Mayor-elect Marcerlo Cabrera and will make sure the transfer of power between the two administrationsgoes smoothly.
Granda said he would provide information to Cabrera regarding several projects that the incoming mayor has voiced concerns about. These include the light rail system, reconstruction of San Francisco Plaza in the historic district and renovation and expansion of the football stadium.
Cabrera says he will continue with all three projects but says he and his staff could make changes following reviews.
He says is particularly concerned about the train route on Calle Mariscal La Mar in the historic district and, on Av. España, which runs by the main bus station and airport. He also says modifications may be made the San Francsico Square restoration plan following discussion with vendors affected by the project. During campaign, Cabrera said the vendors’ opinions were not taken into account during planning.
Cabrera officially assumes office on May 14.
Photo caption: Carnival party goers in Parque Calderon Thursday night; Photo credit: El Tiempo