CUENCA DIGESTNew national restrictions on alcohol sales stir opposition
The owners of bars, liquor stores and gas station convenience stores are up in arms about new nationwide restrictions on the sale of alcoholic. They say that tens of thousands of job will be lost and that the new rules are a draconian response to problems that could be solved through better law enforcement.
The new rules, which went into affect this week, will not allow bars and restaurants to serve liquor after midnight Monday through Thursday or after 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Retail outlets, including liquor stores, are allowed to sell liquor only until 10 p.m. on any day and sales of alcohol in stores connected to gas stations have been banned entirely, as are all Sunday sales.
Ecuadorian National Police have said the goal of the new rules is to reduce underage drinking and crime associated with drinking. A spokesman for the police said that 11% of violent crime involves alcohol while 8% of murders a committed by people under the influence. Police say they are especially concerned about the recent spike in murders in Guayaquil and Quito
Daniela Espinoza, owner of the Av. Loja 7-Eleven liquor store in Cuenca says the new restrictions will hurt families that depend on the sale of liquor for their livelihood, saying that the peak hours for sales are between midnight at 2 a.m. “How can we make a living if they take away our most profitable sales time?”
Espinzoa and others also said that the new rules add insult to injury to those who sell liquor after the government raised taxes on imported liquor 35% last year. “This is outrageous.”
Police in Cuenca say they will begin enforcing the new law immediately, focusing on Calle Larga and Av. Remejio Crespo.
ECUADOR WILL REFUND SOME VAT TAXES TO TOURISTS
Ecuador Ministry of Tourism announeced last week that it will refund some value added taxes (VAT) paid by foreign tourists during their visit to the country. The VAT tax is 12% and is applied to most sales of goods and services, including those at restaurants and hotels.
According to Minister of Tourism, Freddy Ehlers, “This is great news and is another example of the support provided by the government to encourage tourism and economic activity in the country."
Under the new regulations, foreigners are entitled to a refund of VAT paid on purchases of fifty dollars or more.
Ehlers said that final details have yet to worked about how refunds will be handled but he said new rules would be in place by July.
GOVERNMENT CONTINUES TO RESIST HIGHER CITY BUS FARES
The Government said again last week that it was not convinced of the need of a fare increase on urban buses in the country, which is set at 25 cents. In a meeting last week in Guayaquil with bus company owners and officials from several cities, the government offered to reduce or eliminate import taxes on buses and bus supplies.
Bus company owners claim that the 25 cent fare, established in 2002, is making it increasingly difficult for bus routes to remain profitable.
“Our prices have gone up 50% since the fare was established,” said bus owner Juan Ramirez of Quito. “The government concessions help but not enough to keep up with inflation.”
Other bus owners at the meeting claimed the government reluctance to allow a fare increase is political. “This is all about politics,” said Galo Esteban, an executive with a bus company in Manta. “If they let us raise fares to where they should be, they will have trouble getting votes. Sometimes, however, you just have to face reality.”
Photo caption: The government has refused an industry request for a bus fare increase.
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