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Cuenca News

Gasoline subsidies studied, Defense minister wants U.S. help, Anti-mining leader beaten

Defense minister wants U.S. assistance on border

Ecuador Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin is proposing that the U.S. be invited to open an office in Esmeraldas Province to provide security assistance on the border with Colombia. The office would include security experts and advisors but no active military or police personnel. The proposal must be approved by the National Assembly as well as other measures Jarrin says have the support of President Lenin Moreno.

Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrin

“We need the assistance of other countries to fight the drug and terror threat on the border,” Jarrin said. “This proposal is strictly for assistance. There will not be a foreign military base on Ecuadorian soil.”

Among Jarrin’s other proposals is one to revitalize the economy near the border, including assisting fishermen reestablish their livelihoods which have been disrupted by illegal drug operations in the region. “The border solution is not simply one of police and military operations. It must also include measures to improve the lives of those who live in the area.”

Gasoline subsidies could be first to be eliminated

The price of gasoline could soon be headed higher for most Ecuadorian motorists. The government announced Thursday that it is studying the elimination of the subsidy for regular and extra gasoline. The subsidy amounts to about $1 billion annually.

Following a meeting between President Lenin Moreno, Energy Minister Carlos Pérez, Finance Minister Richard Martinez and Policy Management Secretary Paúl Granda, Martinez said the gasoline subsidy could be the first to go on the chopping block. “We are deferring action on the LP gas and diesel subsidies at this time, focusing on gasoline,” he said. “Our strategy is to study all the fuel subsidies but to do it one at the time.” Subsidies for LP gas and diesel amount to about $2 billion annually, according to Pérez.

Anti-mining leader claims he was kidnapped and beaten

Alustino Gutama, president of the Parish Council of Molleturo and leader of the anti-mining movement in Ecuador claims he was kidnapped and beaten Tuesday night. He says those involved in his abduction and assault were supporters of the Rio Blanco gold mine in the Cajas Mountains. He is being treated for injuries at the Social Security hospital in Cuenca.

By court order, the mine was closed in June following protests at the site, 20 miles west of Cuenca. Opponents say the Chinese-operated mine is polluting water sources, a claim that the municipality of Cuenca supports. The provincial court is currently reviewing the closure and is expected to rule within days if the mine will be allowed to resume operations or be permanently closed.