Custom service relaxes international traveler tax-free rules; Pollsters say presidential debate could sway voters; Avian flu confirmed in the Galapagos

Sep 20, 2023 | 0 comments

The National Customs Service has relaxed some of its allowances of what international travelers are allowed to bring into the country tax-free. It is the first major change to the customs product list since 2017.

Beginning September 15, travelers arriving in the country by air are allowed five liters of alcoholic beverages instead of the previous three liters. In addition, travelers are now allowed eight kilograms of food supplements and vitamins, up from the previous four kg., while the allowance for liquid cosmetics increases to 500 milliliters from the previous 300. The allowance for cremes and lotions doubles, to 2,500 milliliters.

A dead bird is tested for H5N1 avian flu in the Galapagos Islands.

Other changes in the customs list increases an allowance for computer monitor size to 32 inches from 24, and for televisions to 60 inches from 32.

The customs service says products brought into the country under duty-free rules are intended for personal use, not for resale, and those bringing multiple items of the same product will be subject to fines.

For more information on Customs Service traveler allowances and other importation information, consult the service’s website.

Pollsters say the Oct. 1 presidential debate could sway some voters
The directors of Ecuador’s leading polling services agree the October 1 presidential debate between Luisa González (Citizens Revolution) and Daniel Noboa (National Democratic Alliance) could have an impact on election results.

The big question, they say, is whether it will be enough for González to overcome Noboa’s sizeable lead, which according to an average of four recent polls is about 10%.

“González has a mountain to climb over the next month and the debate is her best chance to cut into Noboa’s lead,” says Álvaro Marchante, of the Comunicaliza poll. “The trend in the last two weeks is in Noboa’s favor so she must first reverse that.”

According to Marchante, there are several cases in recent history where he believes the debate was a deciding factor in the election. “For example, in 2021 the runoff debate probably changed the minds of three or four percent of voters and that was enough to allow [Guillermo] Lasso to surpass [Andres] Arauz and win the election,” he says. “The problem for González, of course, is that she is behind by a much larger margin, which means something huge must happen during the debate to turn the tide.”

Santiago Pérez, director of the Social Climate poll, says the position of many voters is already “set in stone” and he does not expect the debate to make a major difference. “I think most voters have already made up their minds, many of them based on the pro-Correa, anti-Correa dichotomy,” he says. “I don’t see the debate modifying that dynamic very much.”

He adds: “It is unfortunate because many voters focus excessively on the [former president Rafael] Correa issue and don’t pay attention to the proposals that Noboa and González are putting forward. On the other hand, as many experts have pointed out, the candidates are not doing a very good job of differentiating their positions. It has really become a personality contest.”

Francis Romero, who heads Click Research, agrees with Pérez that the pro-Correa, anti-Correa divide is the major factor in the election. “Just as González’s association with Correa helped her come in first in the first election, it is hurting her in the runoff because of the negative sentiment toward Correa. Correa’s negatives — and González’s – are three time higher than those for Noboa.”

Nothing is outside the realm of possibilities, Marchante says. “Over the years we have seen the fallibility of the polls on many occasions, and it would be foolish to count González out of the race. The debate will be critically important for her.”

Cases of H5N1 avian flu confirmed in the Galapagos
Galapagos National Park Management confirmed Tuesday that four dead birds in outlying islands of the park have tested positive for the H5N1 avian flu. Test results have been sent to a lab in Guayaquil for follow-up testing. Testing began two weeks ago after park personnel and tour boat crews reported finding a large number of dead birds.

Park management said it has activated biosecurity protocols to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to other birds and to humans. Several islands visited by tour boats have been closed to tourism and park personnel investigating the outbreak have been ordered to wear protective clothing on the infected islands.

The park said that none of the birds testing positive for H5N1 were found on islands with human populations.

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