ECUADOR DIGESTGovernment delays enforcement of new cell phone rules for travelers; says details still to be worked out

Jul 1, 2012

Ecuador customs officials announced Saturday that they would delay enforcing new rules for the importation of cell phones until details of the new plan have been worked out.

The new restrictions, adopted June 15, impose import limits and new taxes on dozens of imports, including cell phones, cars and liquor.

One provision of the new plan, according to Ecuador´s Committee of Foreign Trade (COMEX), was that travelers would no longer be allowed to bring new cell phones into Ecuador that had been purchased outside of the country. COMEX announced that they would work with local cell providers to make it impossible to activate cell phones not purchased in Ecuador.

Since that announcement, COMEX clarified the rules, saying that they would apply only to citizens and residents, not to tourists.

The delay in enforcement of the new rules is indefinite, according to COMEX. In the meantime, old rules, which allow all travelers to bring one new cell phone into the country, are enforce.

ECONOMY FORECAST TO GROW 5.4 PERCENT IN 2012

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Ecuador's economy grew 4.8 percent in the first quarter this year compared to the same period last year, slowing from a year-on-year growth rate of 6.1 percent in the previous quarter, President Rafael Correa said on Saturday. The country´s Central Bank is predicting at 5.4% growth rate for the year.

Higher oil export revenues together with increased tax collection have allowed the government to ramp up welfare spending in recent years, which has spurred economic growth.

"In the first three months of 2012, and this is official data from the Central Bank, we've had a growth rate of 4.8 percent," Correa said in his weekly television address.

Ecuador's economy grew 7.8 percent in 2011, more than double the 2010 growth rate. The OPEC nation expanded 3.6 percent in 2010 and 0.4 percent in 2009.

The government has vowed to continue spending heavily to spur growth in 2012 as it heads toward a presidential election scheduled for February 2013. Correa is expected to run for re-election but has yet to make an official announcement.


OFFICIALS STILL DICUSSING THE ASYLUM CASE OF JULIAN ASSANGE

Ecuador is still considering whether to grant political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who faces extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, President Rafael Correa said.

"We are analyzing the case with full responsibility and, as we have said a thousand times, we have no deadline to make a decision," Correa said.

"That decision will be absolutely sovereign and … (show) respect for human rights," he added.

Assange remained holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London on Saturday, defying a British police order to turn himself in for extradition to Sweden where he is sought on sex crime allegations.

The 40-year-old Australian insists those allegations are part of a politically-motivated effort to get him extradited to the United States, where he fears he could be put on trial for espionage or other crimes.

WikiLeaks enraged Washington by publishing a flood of secret information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than 250,000 confidential US diplomatic cables.

Photo caption; Customs police check the luggage of in-coming travelers at the Guayaquil airport. Credit: El Comercio.

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