New testimonies in case against former Ecuadorian vice president

Quito, Jan 7 (Prensa Latina) Ecuador's National Court of Justice this Tuesday hosts the second day of the adjudication hearing against former vice president Maria Alejandra Vicuña, as part of the case known as 'Diezmos.'

The former official is accused of extortion, based on the sworn statement by Angel Polivio Sagbay, a former member of her work team who claimed that he had to pay a monthly sum to Vicuña to keep his position as a national assembly member from 2012 to 2016.

Yesterday, over dozen experts and witnesses offered their version, who sustained the complaint, after confirming the existence of transfers from Sagbay and two other former colleagues of the then member of parliament.

The Office of the Attorney General (PGE) underscored that the defendant took advantage of her position as an assembly member to request funds from her collaborators.

In her defense, Vicuña alleges that the payments she received were voluntary contributions to raise funds for the Alianza Bolivariana Alfarista party, financed through the personal accounts of its members since it did not have a Unique Taxpayer Registry and was not included on the list of political organizations authorized by the National Electoral Council.

On the other hand, she warned that Sagbay, who was a fellow party member, used the situation to blackmail her.

Transfers of over 43,000 dollars to Vicuña's account were verified, of which Sagbay contributed over $23,000.

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Wooden car race decorates festivities for Quito Foundation

The festivities of Quito, for the 485th anniversary of the foundation of the capital of Ecuador, are decorated this Sunday with the start of the traditional wooden car race.

The event that is part of the program of celebrations to the capital has been held in various parts of this city for more than 40 years.

For this day, the initial competition is foreseen, of six fixed in the agenda, in the circuit from the avenue La Gasca to the Fernando de Santillan.

The downhill race, which tests the tact and nerves of the participants, will take place in two categories this year, from 15 to 20 years and from 20 to 40.

Among the main requirements to compete is to have cars built only with wood and with rubber-coated tires of used tires.

The popular game is one of the most awaited by Quiteños and visitors during the festivities for the foundation of the capital.

The competition is developed with the support of entities such as the Metropolitan Police, the Secretariats of Sport and Security, the Metropolitan Transit Agency, the Metropolitan Control Agency and the Fire Department.

During this weekend, the Fire Festival took place last Friday, which takes the flame of the festivities to 15 neighborhoods of Quito and the Confraternity Parade, the day before, in which thousands of people participated.

The celebrations of the so-called 'Carita de Dios' began last November 22nd and will last until December 7th.

Quito was founded on December 6, 1834, by Spanish conqueror, Sebastian de Belalcazar.

  • Published in Culture

Cuba begins to withdraw doctors from Ecuador

The first of nearly 400 Cuban doctors assigned to Ecuador were pulled back Tuesday at the request of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno.

A plane carrying 174 doctors landed in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, home to some of the medical professionals, before flying to Havana, where the remainder were met by Cuban Health Minister Jose Angel Portal.

Portal praised their work and denied that they had played any political role in the recent wave of protests that roiled Ecuador, as Moreno has charged.

Ecuador's government alleged that during the riots in early October "there were an unusual flow of foreigners in the country with an official Cuban passport, arriving as healthcare workers."

On Nov. 12, Ecuador announced its unilateral decision to terminate health accords with Cuba that entailed the 382-member Cuban medical mission, saying Ecuadorians would replace the doctors.

Cuba's Health Ministry blames Washington for the dispute, accusing Washington of trying to "sabotage" and "discredit" the prestige of its renowned international healthcare cooperation, also known as medical diplomacy.

"At all times, Cuban professionals have strictly adhered to carrying out the functions entrusted to them by Ecuador's health system in strict compliance with the signed agreements," the ministry said in a recent statement.

Cuba began medical cooperation with Ecuador in 1992. It was expanded in 2009 through a framework cooperation agreement in health matters signed during then Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa's visit to Havana.

Some 3,565 Cuban doctors have worked in Ecuador, attending to millions of patients and carrying out 212,360 surgeries, according to the Cuban government.

In a message to the Ecuadorian people, Portal said Cuba was willing to continue collaborating in medical matters.

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Ecuador's Assembly Rejects President Moreno's Economic Reforms

Several of these reforms were questioned by the indigenous movement, other social organizations, and by the business sector.

Ecuador’s Assembly rejected Sunday a package of tax and monetary reforms presented by President Lenín Moreno, in a new blow to his attempts of obtaining fresh resources and reduce the bulky fiscal deficit.

RELATED: Ecuador: 'Russia Today' Taken Off The Air by State Company

 "With 70 affirmative votes, the National Assembly has decided to deny and file the economic growth bill," the legislature said on its Twitter account.

"They shelved this looting law. Congratulations to la Revolucion Ciudadana’s bloc that led opposition to this nefarious law; to so many citizen initiatives; and to anonymous patriots, such as the Dollarization Observatory. As long as this nefarious government continues, we still have not won anything," said former president Rafael Correa.


| Con 70 votos a favor la Asamblea de Ecuador niega y archiva el proyecto de ley de “crecimiento económico” de Lenín Moreno →

#LASTMINUTE | With 70 votes in favor, the Assembly of Ecuador denies and files Lenín Moreno's "economic growth" bill →

The reforms were suggested by Moreno after a banking agreement that the government sealed in February with the International Monetary Fund for US$4.2 billion dollars.

The government bill aimed to improve tax collection by increasing some taxes and establishing a special contribution for companies with annual revenues of more than one million dollars.

In addition, it proposed some legal changes to give autonomy to the country's Central Bank and prevent it from becoming a source of direct government financing.

Several of these proposals were questioned by the indigenous movement, other social organizations, and by the business sector. With these reforms, the government hoped to raise more than 700 million dollars next year.

Moreno had desisted in mid-October from eliminating the fuel subsidy after nearly two weeks of violent protests that shook the country.

After annulling the decree that raised the price of extra gasoline and diesel, Moreno opened a dialogue table with the indigenous movement to seek mechanisms focused on the subsidy, without obtaining results so far.

"Social pressure first achieved the repeal of decree 883, and today, we denied another imposition by the IMF that violated the rights of the people and was harmful to the country," said the indigenous group CONAIE, in its Twitter account after the decision of the Assembly.

Con 70 votos archivada y negada la mal llamada .

La presión social logró primero la derogatoria del decreto 883 y hoy otra imposición del que atentaban los derechos del pueblo y era nefasta para el país, es negada. ¡viva la lucha del pueblo unido!

With 70 votes we filed and denied the misnamed #Law Economic Growth. 
Social pressure first achieved the repeal of decree 883 and today another imposition of the #FMI that violated the rights of the people and was harmful to the country, is denied. Long live the victory of the united people!

Ecuador estimates a fiscal deficit of around 3.6 billion dollars this year and thought new reforms could bring it down by about 237 million dollars by 2020.

  • Published in World

Ecuador ends agreement to receive Cuban doctors

Ecuador's Interior Minister said Cuban doctors will be replaced by national specialists.

The Ecuadorean government announced Tuesday its decision to put an end to a bilateral cooperation agreement on health between the South American country and Cuba, which enabled the island's doctors to work in Ecuador.

The announcement was made by Ecuadorean Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo who said the move means "there will be no renewal of agreements or new agreements between Ecuador’s and Cuba’s health ministries."

According to Romo, Cuban doctors will be replaced by Ecuadorean specialists who will be called to apply from tomorrow to fulfill the nearly 400 places that will be free.

Romo also said these agreements are the last ones of this kind to be in force until the end of this year, however she added, the government is hoping to terminate them before that time. "When we started the government, there were many more [doctors] but the agreements were progressively replaced by direct hiring positions,” the official added.

Former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa had stated at the time of the deals with Cuba that “Ecuador did not lack talent but required more doctors and specialists.”

Cuban doctors had come to Ecuador with extensive experience to take care of patients in public services all over the Andean country. They helped to strengthen the education system of medicine and allowed to better serve the population, especially lower-income citizens.

The agreement between Ecuador and Cuba was part of the Cuban medical missions which are a cornerstone of the island’s international cooperation programs for the world.

In a similar fashion, the departure of Cuban doctors from Brazil earlier this year saw severe consequences for that country’s most vulnerable population as the government of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro struggled to fill up the vacuum left by the physicians; El Salvador is another country that halted the medical programs with Cuba.

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What they can’t forgive to Evo Morales

The Bolivian people have decided their destiny in vital elections, not just for the progress and political, economic and social stability of that nation, but also for the region, and in which the current president Evo Morales - according to all the official polls – holds all the winning tickets, despite the media offensive and violent actions that have tried to subvert the domestic order in the country and turn the electoral process against him.

It’s obvious that at this point nothing else could be expected. The courage, optimism, Morales’s faith in his cabinet and in his town, but above all, his work dynamic, his truthfulness, have put him at the head of his people and before the world as an example of dignity that the regional right-wing willing to please the United States and the U.S. government itself, with their Moroe-like outbursts, cannot forgive him.

In recent days, Evo Morales presided over a great march in El Alto city - the same that 16 years ago fought for the nationalization of gas against the government of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and his vice president Carlos Mesa - and another rally in La Paz - as the closing of the campaign - and he looked confident and smiling, surrounded by thousands of people who followed him. He ratified the importance of being with those in need, listen to them, and learn from them.

His election campaign has suffered all kinds of attacks and setbacks but he has been unstoppable, solving key problems, dealing with new works and social projects and leaving aside the talk and empty actions of his opponents, some very well known to the people and not precisely because of his good deeds. Thanks to their direct and close work with municipal and local governments, international aid and hundreds of volunteers, a few hours ago it was confirmed that they were finally able to quench the fire outbreaks that remained in the Chiquitania region, although about that, the so-called large media have said nothing.

"There are no more heat spots or active fire in Chiquitania," said Cinthia Asin, secretary for the Sustainable Development and Environment of the Government of Santa Cruz, the same region where offices and establishments were violently assaulted a few weeks ago related to the Movement To Socialism (MAS) resulting in injuries to dozens of people, in the voice of the opposition candidate Carlos Mesa himself – what a coincidence? - should not choose violence as a form of action but they were “very brave” to express their dissatisfaction with Morales government.

Evo, however, has lived up to the standards of a leader who is only interested in keep on changing the lives of his people and the welfare of his country, and especially that of the poorest. That’s why he moves away from electoral talks to launch programs like the BDP-Lab that supports young entrepreneurs to have their own companies with seed capital and supports them with 30% subsidized housing loans, boosting not just youth unemployment but also that they can buy their own home.

He even travelled last week to the Potosí region, where the largest lithium reserves worldwide are found to promote a project that will allow them to become the largest producer of lithium batteries for electric vehicles and, at the same time, become a hub of economic environmentalist development with the direct participation of Bolivian students and engineers who receive training at a Technology Center, one of the kind in the country.

In early September, the indigenous president was also able to pass a law that guarantees access to universal and full healthcare to people suffering from cancer, and not just through the development of programs but also ensuring its infrastructure. He then ratified that Bolivia would continue to advocate, firstly, for more social policies, and here the Unique Health System (UHS) created during his period of mandate occupies an important place. The creation of this system made possible the construction of three nuclear medicine centers, equipped with the best technology to fight cancer in cities like El Alto, La Paz and Santa Cruz.

That is what the far right-wing cannot forgive to Evo Morales, that his government continues to work nonstop, that they are attacked and yet, continue to provide opportunities for the youngest, almost 30% of the entire Bolivian population, the same young people who in 13 years the government built more than 5,000 schools for them, increased the resources sent to universities as well as jobs, just to mention those examples.

They can’t forgive him that amidst all that, he speaks in the United Nations, signs agreements and promotes concrete actions with world leaders to favor the fight against the eminent problems of the climate change, and that without resorting to economic measures known as “paquetazos” he still invests in social resources while ECLAC confirms that the Bolivian economy – once again - will grow the most and achieve more stability in the region by the end of 2019.

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Ecuadorean unemployment grows to 4.9%, highest in more than two years

Quito, October 17 (RHC)-- Unemployment in Ecuador reached 4.9 percent in September, growing 0.9 percent since September 2018, the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) reported Wednesday. 

According to the latest National Survey on Employment, Unemployment, and Under-employment, the number of unemployed in the last year grew by 74,053 people, by September 406,871 Ecuadoreans had no job. 

Adequate employment, which contemplates social benefits and a salary higher than the minimum was 38.5 percent; while underemployment registered represented 19.7 percent of the population.

Right-wing President Lenin Moreno’s neoliberal handling of the economy and the International Monetary Fund’s austerity measures are the main culprits behind this increase in unemployment.

On September 1, 2017, Moreno signed executive order 135, which stated the overall strategy to take in order to "optimize and reduce public spending." Based on that the Coordinating Company of Public Companies (EMCO) announced on February 2019 that public companies were to cut 10% of their payroll. According to EMCO, the companies under its coordination report 39,100 workers, which would mean almost firing 4,000 employees. 

While another determinant is the signing of a $4.2 billion deal with the IMF.  Ecuador’s government presented a Letter of Intent to the institution on March 1 which was made public on March 21.  This official document details all the actions and conditions a national government is willing to accept and apply in order to obtain the IMF loan, including major labor reforms and layoffs in the public sector.

As Minister of Finance and Economy Richard Martinez said an “urgent” labor reform will take place. Flexibility and deregulation will benefit employers at the cost of employees’ rights or, as the IMF has sugar-coated it, “reducing labor market rigidities and improving competitiveness.” The rationale behind this is that by allowing for less-rigid labor contracts there will be an “increase in female labor force participation and youth employment opportunities.”

In April, the country’s Minister of Labor informed that just from December 2018 to February 2019, 11,820 people have been fired from the public sector.

The structural reforms in the deal will create a recession in the country. As the IMF itself projects it with a contraction of real GDP of 0.5 percent, as well as a projected rise in unemployment for each of the first three years of the program.  While the Ecuadorean government projected an increase in the unemployment rate from 3.7 percent in 2018 to 4.7 in 2020.

“Even these forecasts appear to be quite over-optimistic for a number of reasons,” Mark Weisbrot and Andres Arauz argue in a report of the IMF program for Ecuador for the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Wednesday’s figures would surpass the “worst” forecasted year by the IMF which was meant to be 2021 with a 4.8 percent unemployment rate.  Thus the projections are grimmer and will likely result in a higher percentage of poverty throughout the country, especially the rural areas.

Edited by Ed Newman

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Ecuador revokes decree eliminating fuel subsidy

After 11 uninterrupted days of national strike, the government and the indigenous movement of Ecuador agreed this Sunday to revoke Decree 883, which eliminated the subsidy for extra gasoline and diesel.

A new resolution repealed the provision, which resulted in a massive popular rejection to President Lenín Moreno's measures.

National protests against the so-called package were thus terminated, as well as the measures in effect since last October 3, when the decree became effective and the demonstrations began, uniting the majority of Ecuadorian citizens.

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