Bodies could be those of kidnapped journalists
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Thursday night that bodies discovered in southwestern Colombia could be those of three journalists from the Quito newspaper El Comercio. Javier Ortega, Paúl Rivas and Efraín Segarra were kidnapped March 26 in a rural area in Esmeraldas Province, just south of the Colombian border, while they were reporting military operations against Colombian drug cartels. Santos said that DNA tests will be conducted Friday in Cali to verify the identity of the bodies.
Van service could be legalized
The National Transit Agency (ANT) is considering a rules change that would allow small passenger vans to operate legally between Cuenca and Guayaquil and Loja. According to the Association of Executive Service Operators, some of seven-passenger vans currently operate on those routes but risk being fined by police because they lack an inter-provincial transport license. Larger vans, called busettas, that carry 16 to 20 passengers, were legally authorized by ANT last year to operate in Azuay, Guayas and Loja Provinces. The ANT is expected to announce its decision within weeks.
Hikers rescued in Cajas National Park
A group of five hikers were rescued early Thursday morning in a remote, high-altitude area of the Cajas National Park. Two of the hikers were treated for hypothermia due to low temperatures. According to park officials, the group became lost after dark on Wednesday in the Culebrillas district of the park but one of the hikers was able to make a cell phone call for help. The rescue occurred at an elevation of 4,400 meters (14,500 feet) in temperatures of minus 8 degrees celsius (18 Fahrenheit).
National Assembly sends economic law to Moreno
Legislation aimed at revitalizing Ecuador’s economy passed the National Assembly on Thursday and was sent to President Lenin Moreno. Among its provisions, the bill includes tax incentives for new businesses and for existing businesses that expand operations, a tax reimbursement to farmers and the elimination of a 50 percent tax on gas stoves and ovens. The assembly bloc loyal to former president Rafael Correa voted against the bill claiming that it was a “give away” to the rich while conservative CREO members abstained, complaining that the legislation lacked controls for controlling future debt.