Real estate sales below pre-pandemic levels; Lasso working with Assembly on crime bill; Business reports strong holiday sales; Bolsonaro, Lula tied
The Ecuador Real Estate Chamber says that real estate sales in the country have failed to recover to pre-pandemic levels. “Although there has been some recovery, we are still about 10% below the activity of late 2019,” the Chamber said in statement. “It must also be recalled that the market in 2018 and 2019 was weaker than it had been in previous years.”
Chamber President Adrián Rodríguez says new construction is also below 2019 levels, indicating that the recovery could be negatively affected in the future. Of the country’s major cities, Rodríguez says real estate sales are strongest in Cuenca.
The market faces two major challenges, according to Rodríguez. “First, interest rates remain high and, second, the high level of unemployment means more people cannot afford to purchase their homes.”
He said he is urging the government to apply more pressure on banks to reduce lending rates. “In addition, we need significant funding for the construction of affordable housing for low-income families but, so far, the government and the National Assembly are only talking about this.”
Crime increase related to organized gangs and cartels
The office of President Guillermo Lasso said Tuesday it is working with leadership in the National Assembly on efforts to combat rising crime in Ecuador. National Police report that murders and violent crime have increased by 70% nationwide since early 2020, with the majority of the increase being recorded in the coastal provinces of Guayas, Manabi and Esmeraldas.
On Sunday, Assembly President Virgilio Saquicela said crime has become the “number one worry” for most Ecuadorians. He said he is pleased to work with Lasso to develop anti-crime legislation targeting the drug trade.
“In terms of common criminal offenses, there has been little increase in most of the country,” said Government Minister Francisco Jimenez during a press conference. “Our biggest problem, and the reason for the higher numbers, is related to international organized crime directed from Mexico, Albania and Colombia. Almost all of this is related to the export of illegal drugs through the ports.”
Tourism had strong holiday weekend
The Cuenca Tourism Council reports that hotels reached 85% occupancy during the three-day Guayaquil independence holiday, with several hotels in El Centro being fully booked. Restaurants and bars also reported high volume, with many forced to turn away customers.
The Citizen Security Council said tourists reported several cases of theft and had complaints about crowd control at weekend concerts and festivals. “Overall, we were pleased but we will work with police to make several corrections before the November holidays,” a council spokesman said.
Polls show Brazil’s Bolsonaro even with Lula
Five polls of the Brazilian presidential run-off election show that President Jair Bolsonaro has pulled even with leftist challenger and former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Two polls put Bolsonaro ahead by one percent. The run-off is October 30.
“This is a remarkable turn-around,” says long-time pollster Heitor Matos. “Only a month before the first election, Lula was ahead by 14%,” he said. “The most disturbing factor for Lula is that much of the movement to Bolsonaro is coming from poor barrios in the big cities, areas where he should be especially strong.”
Matos says underlying factors still favor Lula, particularly the poor state of the Brazilian economy. “The outcome remains in doubt, however,” he says. “We have all come to understand that ideology, from either the right or the left, plays a small role for most voters. What they care about is security and the economy.”