With supply ship in dry dock, the Galapagos face gas and food shortages; Underemployment reaches crisis proportions; City targets ‘dangerous bicycles’

Jun 28, 2023 | 21 comments

The mayor of the Galapagos Islands largest community is blaming the government for “setting the islands back 100 years” due to supply shortages. Santa Cruz Mayor Fanny Uribe says Petroecuador and the Ministry of Transport should have responded immediately when one of the two supply ships serving the islands went out of service at the end of March.

“Despite our calls and warnings, they failed to make emergency plans to keep the islands supplied and today we are receiving less than half of the LP gas, gasoline, food and other supplies we need,” Uribe says. “Restaurants are closing early and some are cooking over wood and charcoal fires and families are spending hours a day looking for food and standing in line for rationed gas.”

The Galapagos Islands tourist industry has been hard-hit by the lack of supplies.

Uribe says the Galapagos tourism industry, which most of the population depends on for its livelihood, is being devastated. “Besides problems at the restaurants, tour boats are delaying trips because of the lack of fuel,” she says. “And, we are just beginning the most active tourism season. I’m afraid the tourists will cancel if they hear about what’s going on.”

She also blames the Galapagos Governing Council, which she claims has accepted government excuses for lack of response. “They should have demanded the government decree an emergency to have the Navy begin making shipments,” she says. “I am shocked that they did not act sooner.”

According to Petroecuador, 8,000 LP gas cylinders are being delivered every three to four weeks, but Uribe says this is only 50% of the need.

The out-of-service supply ship, the Isla de la Plata, remains docked in Guayaquil undergoing repairs. The Transportation Ministry say it is not sure when the vessel will return to service.

Underemployment reaches crisis proportions
According to a Quito university study, the next government will face an “underemployment crisis of growing proportions.” The University of San Francisco-Quito study reports that of the eight million Ecuadorians who are employed, 5.5 million are working at a “basic survival level,” many of them below the official poverty line.

“The government reports that the unemployment rate is declining but what it is not saying is that the majority of those with employment – even full-time employment – are under-employed, struggling to cover their basic needs,” says Ricardo Bermeo, who heads the university study. “Some of those counted among the employed can also be included as living in extreme poverty.”

Bermeo says that the majority of Ecuadorian workers are part of the informal labor market and do not contribute to the national Social Security system (IESS) or pay income tax. “This is a problem not only for workers but for the IESS system as well. The workers cannot take advantage of IESS health care and, when they are too old to work, they will have no retirement income,” he says. “At the same time, there are not enough workers on the record to help fund IESS for those who are enrolled.”

Bermeo disputes the government estimate that 53% of working Ecuadorians are in the informal market. “The real number is probably about 65%, possibly higher. This is a problem in all of Latin America but it is more acute in Ecuador due to the inadequate tax base.”

City targets ‘dangerous bicycles’
The Cuenca mayor’s office is meeting with National Police command to develop plans to control what it calls “out-of-control bicyclists.” The meetings follow three recent accidents that left two pedestrians and one cyclist injured. In the latest incident, a 53-year-old woman was hospitalized after she was hit by a cyclist on the sidewalk at the intersection of Benigno Malo and Presidente Cordova in El Centro.

“We are seeing too many cyclists running at excessive speed, going the opposite direction on one-way streets, and merging on and off sidewalks with disregard for pedestrians and other traffic,” the mayor’s office said in a statement. The statement continued, saying that although motor vehicle laws do not apply to bicycles, police and Cuenca Citizen Guards have other laws they can apply to reckless cycling.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said the city is also developing rules for motorized stand-up scooters and unicycles.

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