From March through May, 200,000 members of Ecuador’s Social Security system (IESS) have stopped making payments. According to IESS officials, the number reflects extensive job losses due to the Covid-19 health emergency lockdown.
“The loss of revenue will be impossible to recover and it puts huge financial strain on the system at the worst possible time,” says Pablo Arosemena, president of the Guayaquil Chamber of Commerce. “At the same time, it means former IESS members will be forced to seek health care in the public system, which is also overtaxed. I also worry about the ability of the system to deliver monthly payments to its retired members.”
According IESS records, 45 percent of members who have dropped out are from Pichincha Province while 25 percent are from Guayas Province.
Before the Covid-19 emergency, IESS had 1.8 million paying members.
“It is critical that the government provide funding to help the productive sector regain jobs as quickly as possible,” Arosemena says. “We know we are facing a deep economic recession but the impact can be reduced with stimulus from the treasury.”
Volcanic ashfall could affect Cuenca
Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute says ash from the Sanguay volcanco could fall on Cuenca on Thursday. “The high-level winds that dropped ash on Guayaquil are shifting from west-southwest to southwest, which means Azuay and Canar Provinces could see ashfall on Thursday and Friday,” the institute reported Wednesday afternoon. “Whether cities such as Cuenca and Azogues experience ashfall depends on the strength of those winds but we have alerted municipal authorities to be prepared.”
Peru returns plane crash victim charged with hospital price gouging
The plot thickens in the bizarre case of Daniel Salcedo, one of those charged in defrauding IESS hospitals of millions of dollars in overpriced equipment and drugs. Salcedo was badly injured in a small plane crash in Peruvian territory on Monday. The crash killed the pilot and injured three other passengers.
One of those injured was Salcedo’s girlfriend, 26-year-old former beauty queen Jocelyn Mieles, who said she knew nothing about Salcedo’s alleged crimes or fugitive status.
Salcedo, 32, was returned to Ecuador by ambulance Tuesday night and is currently under guard in a Guayaquil hospital. The Peruvian government said that the aircraft was illegally in Peruvian airspace when it crashed. Also on Tuesday night, Salcedo’s brother, Noah Salcedo, was arrested attempting to enter Peru carrying a bag containing $40,000.
Prosecutors’ say they are attempting to sort out details of the case and that more charges are pending. They refused to confirm a report that a suitcase containing $15 million in cash was recovered at the crash site.
U.S. assures Ecuador of continued support
U.S. Ambassador Mike Fitzpatrick said Wednesday that Washington has donated $15 million to Ecuador’s Covid-19 fight. “We have made these contributions through a number of local programs and will continue to support the government in Quito,” Fitzpatrick said. Most of the donations consist of personal protective equipment, he said, adding that the U.S. also plans to provide $373 million in loans to small- and medium-sized businesses in the country. “As important as protecting the public health is, we also realize the urgent need to rebuild Ecuador’s economy once the Covid-19 crisis passes.”
It’s cold out there!
Ecuador’s sierra is experiencing the coldest temperatures of the year, according to the national meteorological institute, with overnight temperatures expected to drop into single digits in most inter-mountain valley cities on Thursday and Friday mornings. On Wednesday morning, Quito recorded a low of 2.4 degrees (36F) while it was 3.6 (38F) in Latacunga and 6.3 (43F) in Cuenca.