Cuenca business magnate Juan Eljuri dies; Bread prices headed higher; New gov’t office will protect personal data; Law would change VAT distribution

May 11, 2021 | 9 comments

The head of one of Latin America’s most prominent business families, Juan Eljuri, died Monday at 78. His death was announced by his brothers Henry and Olga, his sister Gladys and his son, Juan Eljuri, Jr,, all of Cuenca. President Lenin Moreno and President-elect Guillermo Lasso were among those sending statements of condolence.

Juan Eljuri

The Grupo Eljuri owns 245 companies, including distributorships for automobiles, motorcycles, fuel, appliances, clothing, food and liquor in Ecuador and nine other Latin American countries. The group also has business interests in Canada, the United States, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, China, Thailand, Japan and Australia. In a 2018 article, Forbes magazine listed the Eljuris among the five wealthiest families in Latin America.

Juan Eljuri’s grandfather, Gabriel Eljuri, immigrated from Lebanon to Cuenca in the early 1900s, working as a street vendor of fabrics until he opened his first store, JG Eljuri & Hermano, In 1926.

The Eljuri family did not disclose the cause of death.

The price of bread is headed higher
The price of bread in Ecuador will increase 60 percent on May 24. The Ecuador Bakers’ Union made the announcement Sunday, basing the hike on the higher price of raw materials. Union spokesman Adrián Gualuntuña said that bakers have maintained a price of 12 cents for a small loaf for 10 years and that the 20-cent price represents a “fair and realistic price based on inflation and other factors.”

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Bread prices will increase 60% on May 24.

Bread prices are subject to government regulation but Gualuntuña says the Union can justify the increase. The new prices take effect on the day that President-elect Guillermo Lasso takes office. “We decided it was best that we interact with the new government in any discussions regarding the business of Ecuador’s bread producers and sellers,” he said. By law, the Union must submit its claim for higher prices to the Ministry of Agriculture for review.

The Azuay Bakery Union said it welcomes the new prices. The cost of flour, butter, oils and yeast have doubled over the last decade, it says, putting increased financial stress on bakers. It says the Covid-19 pandemic has added to the inflation as well as causing supply chain disruptions.

New superintendency will protect personal information
The government will create a new office to protect the personal data of Ecuadorian citizens and residents. The Superintendency of Protection of Personal Data will open following final passage of the Law of Personal Data, which was approved overwhelmingly on first draft by the National Assembly Monday. The law is aimed primarily at protecting digital information. According to Social Christian Assemblyman Dennis Marín, the law develops principles, rights, obligations for the use and storage of personal data as well as mechanisms to punish unauthorized use. He said the legislation mirrors the worldwide movement to protect online information of private individuals.

New law will send tax receipts directly to local governments and universities
The central government will no longer be able to delay sending proceeds from the value added tax, or VAT, to local, autonomous governments (GADs) and universities under a law passed in late April. The Tax Regime Law, currently awaiting President Lenin Moreno’s signature, requires VAT money designated for GADs and public universities to go directly to those institutions from the national treasury. Under current rules, the money is distributed at the convenience of the national government .

In recent years, payments to municipalities, prefecturas, parishes and universities have often been delayed, sometimes for months, causing budgeting difficulties. The delays have lengthened during the past year due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The delays have prompted protests by mayors and prefects, demanding immediate payment.

Although he says the law is fair, Finance Minister Mauricio Pozo says it will put “extraordinary strain” on the national government, especially in times of fiscal crisis. “The new law provides the government less leeway and fewer options in times of emergency, like the one we face today,” he says. “Because we use the U.S. dollar, we are not able to print more money the way other countries can.”

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