CUENCA DIGESTA hot day in Cuenca: the mercury hits 81F, 27.5C, on Thursday, the highest temperature in 30 years

Dec 4, 2009

Cuenca recorded its highest temperature in 30 years Thursday, when the thermometer hit 27.5 Celsius or 81 Fahrenheit. The city’s all-time high temperature, 29.5 celsius or 85 Fahrenheit, was recorded in November 1979.

Marcelo Narvaez of the meteorology station at Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar airport said that although yesterday’s temperature was extreme, this is the most likely time of year for records to be set. “November and December are historically our warmest months in the southern Andes, although January and February can also see higher temperatures.” Narvaez said that the lack of rain since early in the week helped contribute to Thursday’s record high.

Narvaez added: “Of course, we need the rain.” Although the drought that has triggered Ecuador’s power outages appears to be over in the Cuenca area, warm days like Thursday will not help to replenish the reservoir at the Paute hydro electric plant, near Cuenca, he said. “December usually sees good rainfall and we believe we have returned to the normal seasonal pattern.”

AS THE DROUGHT EASES, POWER OUTAGES WILL END DECEMBER 15

Ecuador’s Ministry of Energy says it is sticking to its plan to end the country’s rolling power outages on December 15. Minister Esteban Albornoz says he hopes the end of the blackouts will be permanent but promised there would be none through the holidays.

Most of Ecuador has seen fewer outages for shorter periods of time during the past week and Albornoz says this will be case until Dec. 15. In Cuenca during the past week, most sectors experienced outages of two to three hours for four days.

Rainfall in the southern Andes has helped to refill the reservoir at the Paute hydro-electric plant 40 miles northeast of Cuenca. A month ago, the reservoir was at 30% capacity while it was 78% on Thursday.

As a result of the blackouts, a petition is circulating in the National Assembly to impeach Albornoz for poor management of energy resources. His supporters, however, maintain that the problem lies with poor planning over many years and impeachment talk simply reflects frustration brought on the recent drought.

Three hydro-electric projects are either under construction or in the planning stages but none will be on-line before 2011. The largest project, Coca Codo Sinclair in the Amazon region, will be the country’s largest power generation plant but construction will require at least four years. Ecuador is currently in negotiation with China to secure project funding.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY APPROVES SOME TAX INCREASES BUT REJECTS OTHERS IN SUPRISINGLY CLOSE VOTE

Ecuador’s National Assembly yesterday approved new taxes on paper used by newspapers and magazines but rejected increases for liquor and cigarettes.

The vote on the new measures was closer than expected and the rejection of additional taxes on liquor and cigarettes is considered a blow to President Rafael Correa’s plan of tax overhaul. The final debate was marked by shouts of “no new taxes” by opposition legislators. The final vote was 60 in favor of the package with 49 “no” or abstentions.

Another provision of the tax package included a fee increase from 1% to 2% charged on capital outflows from Ecuador. The tax is usually imposed on wire transfers. There is a $1,000 exemption for foreigners. The amount of money that travelers are allowed to take out of the country remains unchanged at $8,570.

Photo caption: Smoke billows from the rooftop of a music store on Calle Presidente Borrero on Thursday. According to officials, the fire was caused by an electrical short set off by a scheduled power outage; photo credit: El Tiempo, Cuenca

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