City buses resume full service following talks with the city; Ecuador leaves UK travel ‘red list’; Oil revenues increase; ‘Coyotes’ increase fees to the U.S.
Following five days of service reductions, the union representing bus owners says Cuenca public buses will resume a full schedule Monday, November 1. Since last Tuesday, only one bus line operated in the morning while service was limited in the afternoon and evening.
According to Manolo Solís, president of the Cuenca Chamber of Transport, the service reduction was a protest against the city’s refusal to consider a fare increase or a subsidy. “Most of our members are losing money and cannot afford to continue operations unless revenue increases,” he said. “Over the weekend we held meetings with the administration and they have finally agreed to consider a rate increase. We will maintain service if this process moves forward in good faith.”
Solís says that increased fuel costs, reduce ridership due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the debt bus owners incurred by replacing old units, means most owners are losing money. He says owners owe more than $60 million on the purchase of new, low-polluting buses that was part of an agreement owners made with the city in 2017. “The city promised periodic fare reviews to insure that our costs were covered by revenue but the reviews were never conducted,” he says. “In meetings on Saturday, the mayor says he will order a review or consider a subsidy.”
Based on the 2017 agreement, fares were raised from 25 cents to 30 cents. A survey conducted earlier this year by the Transport Chamber, recommended a fare of 45 cents.
Cuenca Municipal Councilman Diego Morales, head of the Mobility and Transit and Commission, says that a 45-cent fare is “unreasonable” but agrees the city should provide a subsidy if it does not allow an increase of 35 to 38 cents. He says the subsidy would cost the government $1.2 million to $1.5 million a year.
The city bus fleet includes 475 units, almost all of them purchased since 2017. Before the pandemic, the bus system carried 250,000 passengers a day. Currently, according to Solís, about 175,000 use the system.
Ecuador leaves UK travel ‘red list’
Ecuadorians will be allowed to enter Great Britain with a negative Covid test and proof of vaccination beginning November 1. In early October, Ecuador was placed on Britain’s “red list” of countries whose residents were denied entry due to what the threat of Covid despite the fact that Ecuadorians had one of the lowest Covid infection rates in Latin America.
Ecuador’s inclusion on the list was a mistake, British Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said on October 28. “Our health statisticians apparently misread infection data which resulted in the classification,” he said. “We are happy to correct the error and welcome all our properly credentialed friends from Ecuador.”
Oil revenues increase
Between January and September 2021 Ecuador earned $1.25 billion on oil exports, a 20 percent increase over the same period of 2020. The country’s Energy Ministry credited the increase on the rising price of crude and said it expects prices to continue to rise.
Despite additional revenues, Energy Minister Juan Carlos Bermeo said revenue could be much greater if petroleum subsidies are reduced and administrative changes made, particularly the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars to local governments mandated by law.
The Government has announced an ambitious plan to double oil production by 2025 although energy analysts say a 25 to 40 percent increase is more reasonable. They say major investments must be made in infrastructure upgrades to meet the goal.
Cost increases for illegal immigration to the U.S.
The cost of illegal immigration to the United States has increased from $ 15,000 to $ 30,000 since Mexico began requiring a visa for Ecuadorians to enter the country, according to Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry. The increase also reflects recently imposed visa requirement in Guatemala. The estimate is based on what informal travel facilitators, known as coyoteros, charge for services.
The ministry says the visa requirements and higher costs for coyote services have reduced the number of Ecuadorians attempting the trip by an estimated 50 percent. In July, before the requirements went into effect, an estimated 25,000 Ecuadorians attempted the trip, the fourth highest number among Latin American countries.