ECUADOR DIGESTPolice deny using rubber bullets against Yasuní protesters; Manta tries again to develop port; Internet demand soars

Sep 3, 2013

Ecuador’s Interior Ministry denies that Quito police used rubber bullets and tear gas Monday against protesters opposed to oil exploitation in the Yasuní National Park.

The Confederation of Kichwa Peoples and Nationalities of Ecuador (ECUARUNARI), Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and Pachakutik, organizers of the protests, are making the claim that police used excessive force.chl yasuni1

The protesters marched from the Central University and attempted to enter Plaza Grande, where the presidential palace in located. They were stopped by a police cordon and, during skirmishes, protesters claimed they were met by rubber bullets and tear gas.

Interior Minister Jose Serrano, however, denied the charges. “Our police have avoided confrontation and have been victims of senseless assaults themselves but tear gas and rubber bullets have not been used,” he said.

Many in the police cordon were female officers in training, equipped only with batons and shields, Serano said. “They were not qualified to carry arms of any kind so how could they be firing weapons?”

Last week Serano was forced to retract his claim that police did not use paint guns in confontations with protesters after photos were pulbished showing a police officer with a paint gun.

Manta tries again to develop port

A 25-year, $300 million concession to expand and operate the Manta port is scheduled to be re-launched before the end of this year. Meanwhile the government has announced it will increase its investment in infrastructure upgrades at the port by $10 million, bringing the total to $80 million. In addition to the $80 million investment by the government, $30 million will be required for equipment, which will be the responsibility of a private operator through an international tender.

In 2006, the Chinese company Hutchison International won the concession for port development, announcing it would invest up to $500 million. However, the investment never materialized and the international port operator left the country at the end of the last decade.

According to Manta port officials, the goal is to build facilities capable of handling ships passing through the Panama canal.

Country’s broadband growth skyrockets

The number of new broadband connections in Ecuador has reportedly skyrocketed over the past months, forcing the government to make fresh investments to bolster its telecom infrastructure. According to Supertel, Ecuador’s telecom regulator, the number of Internet users has grown 37% in the past one year.

Broadband and fiber connections increased to 9.5 million in March 2013 from a mere 1.5 million users four years ago, RapidTVNews reported, quoting Supertel.

A large number of people are signing up for mobile broadband services as the challenging geography and the scattered population is forcing telecom carriers to launch 3G and 4G networks. Given the data released by the regulator, the number of mobile Internet connections has surged by 1,565% since 2009 to reach 3.4 million users today.

RapidTVNews says the regulator is aware of the sudden growth in subscriptions and is devising ways to bolster infrastructure. Also, the country is setting out new measures to stem the rising wave of complaints about patchy signals and substandard service.

The most rapid growth of Internet use has been in Cuenca and Quito.

Photo caption: Yasuní protesters in Quito

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