Court sides with Lasso against Assembly; Election ‘dry law’ goes into effect; Tighter controls ordered for clonazepam; Sales show strong growth in 2022

Feb 2, 2023 | 28 comments

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the repeal of a 2021 tax reform law by the National Assembly is unconstitutional. In a split decision, judges said that President Guillermo Lasso’s Organic Law of Economic Development and Fiscal Sustainability remains in effect.

In its decision, the court said the Assembly’s repeal of the law violated constitutional language granting the president sole authority to present legislation that creates, modifies or eliminates taxes. It added that the Assembly is prohibited from taking up the matter in the future.

The Constitutional Court ruled the National Assembly cannot repeal a tax reform law promoted by President Guillermo Lasso.

The law raised taxes on businesses and some high-income individuals to provide funding for the Covid-19 pandemic emergency and “other urgent needs,” according the president’s office.

On November 29, the Assembly voted 100 to 13 for repeal of the law, claiming it had gone into effect under “irregular circumstances” and that the Covid-19 pandemic emergency had passed.

Election ‘dry law’ is in effect Friday to Monday
Ecuador’s law prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages prior to and after Sunday’s election takes effect Friday at noon. As defined by the Code of Democracy, the prohibition continues until noon Monday.

Those violating the law will be fined 50% of the basic salary, or $225. Those arriving at voting stations under the influence of alcohol and those driving under the influence during the dry period will face additional punishment.

The National Police, which will enforce dry law rules, said that stores and restaurants selling alcohol during the dry period can have their operating licenses suspended.

Government orders tighter control of clonazepam
The Agency for Regulation, Control and Sanitary Surveillance ordered Ecuador’s 12,000 pharmacies to tighten dispensing procedures for clonazepam. The drug, also sold under the names Klonopin and Rivotril, is a tranquilizer used to prevent seizures, panic attacks and other anxiety disorders.

The agency said tighter control was required due to an “an epidemic” of drug’s use by teenagers and young adults. It said that some pharmacies were selling the medication over-the-counter when it should be dispensed only with a doctor’s prescription.

The Ministry of Health says it has received dozens of complaints from parents that their teenagers were using the drug as part of a challenge posted on the social media app TikTok. In some cases, children were reported to have slept as long as 18 after taking the drug. Deaths have been reported in Mexico and other countries as a result of social media contests, the Ministry reports.

In other action, the Regulation and Control Agency rejected a request to end over-the-counter pharmacy sales of two classes of opioids. It said the drugs are “relatively mild” and are effective pain relief treatments, adding that there is no evidence of opioid addiction in Ecuador. In the past, the U.S.Embassy has urged Ecuador to sell the drugs only by prescription.

Cuenca Symphony Orchestra honors piano maker tonight
The Cuenca Symphony Orchestra pays tribute Thursday night to piano maker Luis Verdug. The concert, featuring Mozart’s Concerto for Three Pianos, is at 8 p.m. at the Pumapungo Theater. Guest pianists are Andrés Torres, Benita Schauer and Emilia Verdugo.

Verdug was born in Cuenca in 1931 and made pianos under the Pianos Verdugo label at his workshop in Quito until 10 years ago with the help of his son Daniel. He is credited with building the first grand piano in Ecuador.

Sales show strong growth in 2022
Ecuador’s Internal Revenue Service reports that sales of goods and services rose 13.5% in 2022 over 2021. According to SRI, national sales totaled almost $227 billion in 2022 compared to $199.5 billion in 2021.

“The increase is greater than forecast and indicates continued recovery from the Covid pandemic,” SRI said in a statement. “Total sales in 2022 are the highest in five years and we expect another increase in 2023.”

In December, the SRI reported that sales were up 12% over those of December 2021. Soft drinks, snacks, beer and milk were the top sellers, followed by other food items, pharmaceutical products, appliances and clothing.

Of commercial outlets, SRI said that grocery stores and pharmacies showed the greatest sales growth in 2022.

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