Indigenous protest is small and peaceful; 19% of Azuay population is vaccinated; Gov’t to reduce tax exemptions, loopholes; Gasoline, diesel prices rise

Jun 12, 2021

Friday’s indigenous protest against rising fuel prices and International Monetary Fund (IMF) restrictions was peaceful, attracting about 1,000 participants in Latacunga. Fears that the protest would spread to other communities and block highways proved unfounded.

Hundreds of protesters gathered Friday outside the government building in Latacunga.

Protest leader, Leonidas Iza, president of the Indigenous Movement of Cotopaxi said he was pleased with the protest and praised the restraint of marchers in Cotopaxi Province.

“Our mission was to avoid disruption but to sensitize the government to the heavy burden that the indigenous and poor people bear due to the economic crisis and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. I believe we are accomplishing our goal.”

In a list of demands sent to President Guillermo Lasso, Iza called for improved education and in community transport that takes products from the countryside to cities. The list also included a call for a moratorium on loan repayment, funding incentives for farmers and small producers and for the reestablishment of fuel subsidies. In addition, Iza wants the government to reject loan requirements from the IMF he says are an added burden to the poor.

Azuay vaccinations reach 18.77 percent but hospitals are near capacity
Ecuador’s Zone 6 Health Ministry office reported Friday that 18.77 percent of the Azuay Province population has been vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus. In the same report, the ministry reported an increase of hospital occupancy, most of it the result of Covid-19 cases.

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“We are making excellent progress in the vaccination program and are optimistic that Zone 6 will play an essential role in reaching the goal of nine million inoculations nationally by the end of August,” Azuay Governor Esteban Bernal said.

Bernal said he is concerned about an increase in ICU bed occupancy at Cuenca’s José Carrasco Arteaga IESS hospital and the Vicente Corral Moscoso public hospital with 74 of 85 beds occupied at Carrasco Arteaga and 100 percent occupancy at Corral Moscoso. He said police will intensify their efforts to locate and shut down clandestine parties, especially on weekends.

No new taxes but exemptions and loopholes will be eliminanted
Following up on a campaign pledge, President Guillmero Lasso says he will not raise taxes but will crack down on those who don’t pay their fair sure. Economy Minister Simon Cueva said the government will work with the National Assembly to eliminate loopholes, including some exemptions he says are unnecessary and being abused.

Gasoline and diesel prices rose again Saturday.

Saying that the Internal Revenue Service should be collecting billions of dollars more than it currently does, Cueva said bolstered tax compliance efforts would include adding tax collection agents and signing agreements with foreign government, including the U.S., to share income and tax information about Ecuadorian citizens.

Cueva said that the taxation threshold will remain at $11,212, adding that some currently below that level may be required to pay taxes as exemptions are eliminated. “We foresee adding thousands to the tax list through changes in the tax code and greater enforcement,” he said. Cueva added that reducing the size of the informal economy, estimated to include 50 to 60 percent of all workers in Ecuador, will be a major challenge for the new government.

Most of the informals will remain below the income taxation level, he said, but others who should be paying taxes will be added to tax rolls.

Fuel prices rise 3%
Prices for diesel fuel, Super and Ecopais gasoline rose three percent, the maximum allowed under the government’s plan to gradually eliminate subsidies. Beginning Saturday, June 12, diesel will cost $1.52 per gallon, Super $3.20 and Ecopais or Extra, $2.09. Prices will change again, almost certainly rising, on July 11.

Former president Lenin Moreno signed a decree in May 2020 eliminating the fuel subsidy and said before leaving office he expected prices to reach international market levels by August of this year. The move has sparked protests from transportation interests, including inter-provincial bus and inter-cantonal bus companies, trucking companies and taxi owners. Talks are underway with transport and transportation interests to find mechanisms to allow them to cover higher operating costs.

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