One hundred Cuenca taxi cabs will be among the first in Ecuador to be equipped with new safey equipment. According to the National Traffic Agency (NTA), the equipment consists of a video camera, voice recorder, gps system, emergency button and a small computer.
Installation of the new equipment will begin next week.
The NTA says the equipment will eventually be installed in 38,000 taxis and 17,000 buses nationwide at a cost of $95 million, which will initially be paid by the government. Cuenca has 3,600 taxis, almost 10% of country’s total.
The security systems, actívated when the taxi or bus engine is turned on, has a direct connection to the ECU-911 emergency system. If the driver hits the emergency button, an alert is sounded and police will be called. The video cameras and voice recorders will provide information that can be used in court in case of an assualt.
Beginning in 2015, the NTA will charge a monthly fee of $3 per taxi or bus to maintain the system.
More drugs require prescriptions
In an effort to control future flu outbreaks, the Ecuador health ministry has mandated that more than 250 medications currently available over the counter, be prescribed only by doctors.
The medications include a variety of cold remedies, analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs. According to the ministry, the goal of the order is to prevent outbreaks of H1N1 influenza. The medications named in the order mask flu sypmptons, it says, by providing reflief of symptons and could delay a flu diagnosis.
The Independent Pharmacy Federation says that the order puts an unnecessary burden on the country’s pharmacies and says that millions of dollars of medications are stuck in warehouses.
Pharmacies were notified two months ago about the pending rule and most have voluntarily complied. Carlos Reyes , president of the federation says that sales are down significantly in pharmacies nation-wide.
In addition to controlling flu outbreaks, the health ministry says that it is also concerned about self-medication in general, saying that many citizens rely too heavily on over-the-counter medications and should be visiting doctors first.
Talks begin but Colombian border remains closed
The Colombian government has offered concessions to small-scale farmers on strike for more than a week. Talks with some of the protesters are underway in several areas of the country but little progress has been reported.
Meanwhile, the country’s borders with Ecuador and Venezuela remain effectively closed.
Farmers say the government’s agricultural and trade policies are driving them into bankruptcy.
Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said that new government measures, including better prices for products and more access to loans should ease pressures. Other framer demands, such as ending the free trade agreement with the U.S. and other countries are not on the table, according to Cardenas, although he said the government would offer more protection for products affected by the agreements.
Cardenas said he is hopeful that an agreement to end the strike can be reached soon. “We believe that the conditions exist for the strike to be lifted and for the highways to be unblocked,” said Cardenas.
Some of protests have turned violent as food deliveries has been disrupted due to road blocks on key access routes to cities and towns.
Farmers have been destroying their produce and throwing it into the streets.
Photo caption: Taxis outside the Cuenca bus station; photo credit: El Tiempo