Ecuador’s new National Assembly convenes next week and is set to debate several high profile bills during the first 100 days of its session.
Alianza PAIS, the left-leaning “citizen’s revolution” party has dominated Ecuador’s political landscape since the election of Rafael Correa as president in 2007, strengthening its hold on the Assembly in last fall's elections. PAIS holds an unprecedented100 out of 137 seats.
The Assembly will be led by 29-year-old Gabriela Rivadeneira, who many consider Correa’s heir apparent and a possible presidential candidate in 2016, when Correa leaves office.
At the top of the Assembly’s and Correa’s agenda is a bill to liberalize the country’s mining laws, to attract more foreign investment. The proposed law would relax tax requirements on mining companies.
Correa has said that the current law is "investor unfriendly" and that changes are necessary to tap the country’s large mineral reserves.
Another priority, according to Rivadeneira, is the controversial communications law, or Ley de Communicación. The law would re-shape the regulatory Communications Board, creating a broad array of rules governing freedom of speech and press. Newspapers and broadcasting companies oppose the legislation.
Legislation regulating the country’s water resources, Ley de Aguas, is another controversial bill to be considered. It faces sharp opposition from the indigenous communities who are, according the constitution, entitled to take active part in crafting any laws affecting their lands. Last month, the Andean indigenous people’s congress elected a leader who vowed to continue the opposition to the Ley de Aguas.
Another priority for both Rivadeneira and Correa is reform of the Penal Code. Both say that changes must be made to make it easier and faster to put criminals behind bars and keep them there. Correa says the current laws allow criminals to go free too quickly, endangering public safety.
Squatters evicted in Guayaquil
The government has evicted hundreds of what it calls "squatters" in a development of wooden shacks in northwest Guayaquil, tearing down more than 400 dwelllings. The Friday, May 10 operation drew angry reactions from dozens of residents, some of whom claim that they had paid for their property.
The government responded that none of the residents held legal title to the property and that disputes between sellers and buyers would need to be resolved in court.
A spokesman for the government said that Ecuador would not allow squatters to take over government or private land. Squatting is common in a number of Latin American countries, particularly Costa Rica and Mexico. “We will not allow it in Ecuador,” said the spokesman.
The government has conducted several other recent evictions, all in the country's coastal region.
Correa goes on offensive for family planning
In his weekly broadcast on Saturday, President Rafael Correa criticised an organized effort opposing his government’s family planning policies.
The group, “14 million,” opposes sex education in the schools and government programs that distribute contraceptives.
Correa says the “14 million,” a reference to the population of Ecuador, is falsely claiming to be supported by the Catholic church. “The claim is lie, aimed to attract religious Ecuadorians to their cause.
Correa says the family planning program is important to combat rising levels of teen pregnancies in Ecaudor.
Photo caption: President Correa with new Assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira, who many consider to be Correa's heir apparent.