‘Last flight out’ for Ecuadorian refugees; Census will be taken but without a lockdown; Most Ecuadorian cigarette sales are illegal; Gasoline price rise
The third and final flight of Ecuadorians leaving Ukraine will arrive this morning in Quito. According to the flight registry, there are 213 onboard, most of them students, as well as 36 pets.
According to Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Holguín, 140 boarded the flight in Warsaw with another 73 boarding in Budapest. The aircraft refueled overnight in Madrid and is scheduled to arrive in Quito at 8:30 a.m. today.
“With this flight, we will have returned more than 700 Ecuadoran citizens from Ukraine,” he said. “There were 513 who arrived on the two earlier humanitarian flights, including 57 who arrived by commercial carriers.”
He added that today’s flight will be the “last flight out” for Ecuadorians fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “We will help others who come forward on an individual basis but there will be no more flights dedicated to those wanting to return home.”
Holguín believes that at least 200 more Ecuadorians remain in Ukraine or in Poland, Hungary and several other countries, based on the number registered with the consulate in Kiev. “There are others who have not registered but we do not know that total,” he added.
Census will be taken but without a lockdown
The National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) announced Saturday that it will collect data in July and August for a new census. The 2020 census was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unlike previous censuses, there will be no national lockdown where residents are required to remain in their homes while university and high school students go door-to-door with questionnaires. Also unlike previous censuses, 2022 data collection will not be conducted by students but by INEC employees.
“We will take a different approach this time,” said deputy INEC director Jorge García. “The information collection will still be done face-to-face but over a several-week period and it will not require residents to remain in their homes,” he said. He added that there will be 65 questions on the questionnaire compared to 71 in 2010.
García said he expects the census to show Ecuador’s population rising to 18 million from the 14.5 million in 2010. “By tracking utility connections and other data we have a fairly accurate estimate of the population but the census collects data on a number of other topics that are important for government planning and budgeting.”
Most cigarettes sold in Ecuador are illegal
Of every 10 cigarettes sold in Ecuador, eight are illegal, according to the import organization Invamer. “Smuggling of tobacco products from Colombia, Paraguay and Asia is almost uncontrolled, which is extremely unfair to legal importers,” says Martín Orozco, Invamer representative. “The government is focused on illegal drug smuggling and shipping and has invested very little effort to control the cigarette trade.”
Orozco says that 100 percent of cigarettes sold at legal outlets, such as liquor stores, markets and tiendas, in Esmeraldas Province, next to the Colombian border, are illegal. More are 90 percent of those sold in Los Ríos, Carchi, Santa Elena and Guayas Provinces, are illegal, he adds.
According to Orozco, the government loses an estimated $1.4 billion annually in revenue due to cigarette smuggling. “We have been in discussions with the authorities and they say they are planning to increase efforts but, so far, we have seen little action.”
Price of premium gasoline rises
Ecuador’s national petroleum company Petroecuador raised the price of premium, or Super, gasoline to $3.98 a gallon. The new price went into effect Sunday, rising from the previous price of $3.68
Petroecuador director Ítalo Cedeño said the increase is due to the rapid price rise of oil due to the war in Ukraine and other supply issues. “Within the past two weeks, the price of oil has been as high as $130 a barrel because of political instability and we expect the instability to continue.” On Sunday, oil prices averaged $104 per barrel on international markets.
Based on an agreement the government reached in 2021 with the public transport and freight companies, the price of regular gasoline and diesel fuel will remain fixed at $2.55 and $1.90 respectively.