NEWS WRAP: Gov’t says it undercounted chikungunya cases; Chamber knocks China deal; pedestrian accident investigations; more water news
Government says it undercounted chikungunya cases
Ecuador’s Health Ministry acknowledged Thursday that it undercounted the number of cases of the chikungunya virus in Guayas and two other Provinces. It said the current number of cases stands at 11,897, up from 10,180 reported two days earlier. The ministry also said that two people have died of the mosquito-borne virus. Last week, a group of doctors in Manta, sent a letter to several media outlets claiming that the government is under-counting the disease by at least half. The doctors did not identify themselves, saying they feared arrest for speaking out. Everyone agrees that Ecuador is far better off than neighboring countries, who have reported cases in the hundreds of thousands.
Cuenca Chamber of Industry criticizes cook top deal with China
The Cuenca Chamber of Industry called the government’s agreement with China to import 312,000 electric cook tops a “contradiction” of its recent tariff increases on imports. The chamber said that the deal, which waives the tariff, hurts Cuenca appliance factories which it says are gearing up to produce the induction units. Ecuador received the first shipment of 20,000 Chinese cook tops this week. Vice president of the chamber, Andres Robalino, says the government should be helping Ecuadorian businesses, not allowing unfair competition.
China becomes Ecuador’s largest trading partner
China has replaced the United States as Ecuador’s biggest trading partner and creditor, according to economist Dan Collyns. As payment for debts, China is now the recipient of the majority of Ecuador’s oil production. Ironically, most of that oil is resold to the U.S. China is funding and managing eight hydro electric projects in Ecuador. China has also extended a $7.5 billion credit line to Ecuador that will be used to offset lower oil prices this year.
Pedestrian accident investigations should be completed in 24 hours
Ecuador’s National Police headquarters is advising local commanders that police investigations of traffic accidents involving pedestrians must be completed within 24 hours. They say that the 24-hour rule is included in the traffic law that went into effect in early 2014. Traditionally, drivers who have hit pedestrians in Ecuador have been held in jail until an investigation is complete. National police cited a case in which a bus driver was jailed for 33 days before it was determined that he was innocent, and that the man he hit was attempting to escape with a wallet he had just stolen.
The poor and handicapped get break on water rate increase
Cuenca’s municipal utility company, ETAPA, announced this week that it will subsidize water bills for “vulnerable groups,” defined as the poor, handicapped, and the elderly. It also said that is has hired faculty from a local university to study city water rates and usage. ETAPA announced a rate increase amounting to 100% in some cases, on May 5. Meanwhile, the mayor announced that “punitive measures” will be taken against those who hook into the city water system illegally or who waste water. On Friday, ETAPA officials were busy denying rumors that Internet land line telephone service rates were headed higher.