ECUADOR DIGESTMomentum grows for new drug laws in Latin America; good economic news for Ecuador and no more free lunch

Aug 7, 2013

The U.S. and the European Union are keeping a wary eye on changes to drug laws in Latin America.

Legislation to make the government of Uruguay the producer and provider of legal marijuana appears headed for passage in the country’s national assembly, giving President Jose Mujica a long-sought victory in his effort to find alternatives to the global war on drugs.US secretary of state John Kerry

Although Uruguay has taken the lead, the majority of Latin American countries have discussed some form of drug legalization in recent months. There is strong agreement that current efforts to control illegal drugs have failed. Often unstated, is the feeling among government leaders that Latin America has borne the bloody brunt of the U.S. and Europe’s insatiable drug appetite.

Ecuador is one of several countries Latin American countries that have legalized the possession of small amounts of drugs.

Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala also have called for reforms, and a recent report by a commission of the Organization of American States encouraged new approaches, including legalization of marijuana.

Although Uruguay’s new plan must still pass the Senate, its
passage appears assured since Mujica’s coalition holds a large majority.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Latin countries not to move too fast. “Decisions to change the laws could have long-lasting effects. We must be careful to examine the consequences of our actions regarding legalization of drugs.”

Many in the U.S., however, applaud the movement away from what they call “failed policies.”

“Sometimes small countries do great things,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the U.S. Drug Policy Alliance. “Uruguay’s bold move does more than follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington. It provides a model for legally regulating marijuana that other countries, and U.S. states, will want to consider – and a precedent that will embolden others to follow in their footsteps.”

Favorable economic news for Ecuador

Ecuador’s consumer price index fell 0.02% in July from the previous month, the National Statistics and Census Institute said last week. It is the third monthly drop in a row for the index.

Meanwhile the Central Bank reported that the gross domestic product grew by 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013, driven primarily by non-oil exports.

“The Ecuadorian economy continues to grow,” the bank said, compared to the 2.8 percent growth in the last quarter of 2012. The bank reported that  exports in the first quarter rose by 1.3 percent while household consumption ticked up 0.7 percent.

In other economic news, Standard & Poor’s raised the outlook for Ecuador’s credit rating from stable to positive.

According to S & P, Ecuador seems better prepared to meet their debt obligations by new financial options, increased oil production and healthy economic growth.

Government says no more free lunch

Beginning in January 2014, Ecuador will no longer provide free lunches to government employees.

The government says that recent increases in wages and benefits mean that it no longer needs to pay $4 per day for the lunch benefit.

Two government workers’ union are opposing the move, saying that the lunches are a benefit that workers earned. “This is part of our compensation and we vigorously protest the plan to eliminate it,” said Juan Serano, a union official.

The Ministry of Labor Relations said that it was time for a change. “Providing lunches is not a business the government should be involved in,” the ministry said in a press release. “We are paying higher wages and the workers can afford their own lunches.”

Photo caption: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Latin American countries should exercise caution in making changes to drug policies.

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