In good news for Ecuador, oil price tops $90 a barrel; Abortion debate ends without consensus; Cuenca air quality improves; IESS targets ‘internal mafia’
The National Assembly’s second debate of a new abortion law ended without resolution Thursday night. The debate, which turned nasty at times, centered on the issue of the length of time after a rape during which abortions will be allowed.
In March, the Constitutional Court ruled the country’s abortion law unconstitutional because it did not allow the legal termination of pregnancies in the case of rape.
Some Assembly members are pushing for a period of 22 weeks for abortions while others want to limit it to six. Still others say they will defy the court and vote against abortions in any circumstances. During the debate, the Assembly hall erupted and shouts as Bible verses were read and claims that Ecuador should “join the civilized world” were exchanged.
Under its own rules, the Assembly must vote on a final abortion bill by February 11.
Good news for Ecuador: Oil price tops $90 a barrel
For the first time in seven years, the price of oil has exceeded $90 a barrel. The $90.27 paid Thursday on the benchmark West Texas intermediate (WTI) market is good news for the Ecuadorian economy, which has suffered from low prices in recent years. Oil revenue accounts for about 20 percent of the national budget.
Thursday’s price was a 2.28 percent increase from Wednesday and petroleum industry analysts say the price could reach $100 a barrel within six months. Prices also increased on the North Sea Brent crude market, where per barrel prices reached $91.11, a 1.83 percent increase from Wednesday.
President Guillermo Lasso is currently on an official visit to China where he hopes to decouple the country’s multi-billion dollar debt to China from oil deliveries. According to Ecuador’s finance ministry, a debt agreement signed by former president Rafael Correa with the Chinese “substantially under-performs” oil market prices, costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
The price of oil has risen nearly 20 percent since late December, in part due to rising tensions between the U.S. and Europe and Russia in Ukraine. Analysts say prices are unlikely to drop even if the crisis is resolved, believing that oil demand will increase as Covid-19 pandemic restrictions ease.
Cuenca’s air is clearing
Cuenca’s air quality moved out of the “unhealthy” range Thursday afternoon, as the measure of airborne particulate matter dropped below 100. Early Friday, the measure stood at 65 in contrast to the 159 recorded Thursday morning.
Skies over much of southern Ecuador, including Cuenca, turned hazy Wednesday morning, a condition that was at first attributed to eruptive activity at the Sangay volcano in Morona-Santiago Province. However, Ecuador’s Meteorological Institute issued a statement saying the haze was the result of wind-borne dust from the northern Peruvian dessert. It said that dust was trapped by a dome of high atmospheric pressure.
IESS aims to dismantle ‘internal mafia’
The Board of Directors of Ecuador’s Social Security system (IESS) says arrests are imminent of employees providing favors to vendors. On Thursday, the board said it has identified an “internal mafia” that is taking bribes in exchange for speeding up vendor payments for products and services.
According to IESS attorney Carolina Moreano, a corruption network has been operating for years within the system, awarding contracts for bribes and other preferences. “Prosecution is currently underway of those who sold products to the health system at inflated costs and we are now turning our attention to illegality in our bookkeeping operations,” She said. “Arrests are forthcoming and the guilty will pay for their crimes against the people of Ecuador.”