Court asked to review Yasuní deactivation; El Niño floods inundate the coast; Noboa delivers 2024-2025 budget; Assembly approves Costa Rica trade deal

Feb 21, 2024 | 0 comments

Claiming government officials are delaying action to end oil production in Yasuní National Park, two environmental groups have asked the Constitutional Court to intervene. In May 2024, 58% of Ecuadorians voted to end oil operations in the park by August 31 of this year.

Acción Ecológica, which includes the Cuenca-based Yasunidos Collective and Quito’s Sin Minería, claim the government is “dragging its feet” to deactivate the Yasuní oil fields, citing a budget crisis as the reason. “The inaction is in direct defiance of the peoples’ will and we are asking the court to hold accountable those responsible,” the Yasunidos said in a statement.

Traffic moves through a flood street in Manabi Province on Tuesday.

Sin Minería is also asking the court to review lack of progress following a local referendum vote to end mining in the Andean Chocó near Quito.

A number of elected officials, including President Daniel Noboa and members of the National Assembly, have suggested a two-year delay in shutting down Yasuní operations. Some have even suggested a revote on the Yasuní question in light of the national budget crisis.

Constitutional experts agree with the activists that referendum results must be obeyed by the government. “The constitution makes it very clear that the peoples’ vote cannot be ignored,” says Quito attorney Juan Esteban. “The stipulations cited in the referendum must be followed and government officials who fail to do this could face sanctions.”

El Niño floods inundate the coast
Although most of the country experienced rainstorms Tuesday, the coastal provinces of Guayas, Los Ríos, Manabí, Esmeraldas, Santa Elena and El Oro were the hardest hit. Dozens of rivers and streams overflowed their banks in Guayas and Manabí Provinces, flooding low-lying neighborhoods and farmland.

“The intensity and duration of the storms is the result of the El Niño phenomenon and we should expect heavy rains to continue, at intervals, until late March or early April,” the National Meteorology Institute said in a bulletin. “The impact of the system has been delayed but it has arrived in force in the past two weeks.”

Nationally, the storms have resulted in five deaths and 12 injuries and left 238 people homeless, according to national risk management officials. Another 3,000 people have experienced severe damage to their homes and property while dozens of landslides have blocked roadways, officials said.

Between Monday morning and Tuesday night, Guayaquil reported 330 millimeters (13 inches) of rainfall, leaving some areas of the city underwater.

Noboa delivers 2024-2025 budget
President Daniel Noboa said he is emphasizing security, health care, education and social support programs in the 2024-2025 budget he sent to the National Assembly on Tuesday. “This is an austere proposal, given the country’s large budget deficit, but it protects essential programs and provides additional funding for the fight against narco terrorists,” the president said in a statement.

The budget forecasts a GDP of $122 billion during the budget period, assuming growth of less than one percent. It predicts a 2.1% inflation rate and an average price per barrel of oil of $68.

The Finance Ministry reported that the proposed budget does not include income from the recent taxes passed by the National Assembly and adjusted by Noboa and says it will provide an addendum showing updated data in the coming days.

Assembly approves Costa Rica trade agreement
The National Assembly unanimously approved a free trade agreement with Costa Rica that will allow more than 90% of products to enter the two countries without tariffs. The agreement was signed by former president Guillermo Lasso and Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves in March 2023.

In addition to expanding markets for Ecuadorian products, the agreement is an important step for Ecuador’s admission to the Pacific Alliance, a regional trade association that includes Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru. “Membership in the alliance requires Ecuador to have trade agreements with other Latin American countries,” the Trade Ministry said Tuesday after the Assembly vote. “We expect our membership to approved later this year.”

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