Although it has the authority to forgive debts of up to $10,000, the government said Thursday that current economic circumstances make the move “unfeasible.” The National Confederation of Peasant, Indigenous and Black Organizations (Fenocin) has threatened a regional strike if the government does not agree to write off the debts of some poor Ecuadorians.
During negotiations with indigenous organizations following the June strike, the government agreed to apply debt forgiveness of $3,000 but rejected calls higher amounts. “Yes, it is true that we are legally able to forgive debts to $10,000, but this can only happen if the government has the funds to accommodate it and only in extreme emergencies,” said Government Minister Francisco Jiménez.
Fenocin renewed its demand for debt forgiveness of $10,000 for population sectors it claims suffered the most from the Covid-19 pandemic, including farmers, artisans, fishermen and small entrepreneurs. Fenocin President Gary Espinoza says his members will block highways in Los Ríos, Guayas, Manabí, El Oro and Esmeraldas Provinces if the demand is not met. “The President can cancel debts of $10,000 any time he wants since the authority is provided by law. We are just waiting for him to do it.”
According to private and public banking officials, debt forgiveness of $10,000 would cost the national treasury as much as $600 million, money the government does not have, according to Finance Minister Pablo Arosemena. “We remain in an economic crisis due to the pandemic and other factors and it is simply impossible to meet this demand,” he says. “We have many other obligations to the Ecuadorian people that must be met.”
Jiménez says the government is willing change the terms of debts on an individual basis, including reducing monthly payments and the length of full payoff.
As of Thursday night, Fenocin had not responded to the government’s rejection of its demand.
It will business as usual today despite World Cup football game
The government has refused to give in to social media pressure to declare today a holiday for the Ecuador-Netherlands World Cup football game. “We understand that people want to watch the game but there is no provision by law to allow us to shut down the government and private business,” the Government Ministry said on Wednesday. “Depending on management, workers will be allowed to watch the game as long as they carry out their daily functions.”
Ecuador faces the Netherlands in a 11 a.m. World Cup kickoff.
The Ministry statement said that businesses are free to make a decision regarding suspending normal operations to allow employees to watch the game. “The game is only two hours so we are sure there will be accommodations in many cases,” the Ministry said in a statement.
The Education Ministry announced Thursday that public school administrators are free to allow students to watch the game so long as it does not interfere with educational objectives.
Ecuador, which won its opening game with Qatar 2-0 on Sunday, will be an underdog in today’s game. The Netherlands ranks 10th among world football teams while Ecuador is 44th.