Tag Archive | "ecuador"

Latin American Leaders Call for Reform of UN Security Council

Leaders of several Latin American countries, including Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Cuba, called for reform of the United Nations Security Council yesterday, as well as a change in attitudes towards migration, as they addressed the UN General Assembly in New York.

Cuban President Raul Castro also highlighted his country’s relations with the US.

Cuban President Raúl Castro spoke at the UN General Assembly for the first time (photo: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

Cuban President Raúl Castro spoke at the UN General Assembly for the first time (photo: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

While diplomatic relations between the two countries were formally restored in July this year, Castro said they could not be entirely normalised until the lifting of the “economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the US” and the closure of Guantánamo Bay, calls that were reiterated by other Latin American and Caribbean leaders.

The UN General Assembly has voted in support of a resolution calling the US to end the embargo each year since 1982 and plans to draft a new resolution on the matter are on the agenda for a meeting next month.

In his first address to the UN since succeeding his brother Fidel in 2006, Castro also backed requests from other Latin American leaders for reform of the UN Security Council.

The security council is the UN’s most powerful body because it has a role in shaping international law and takes the lead on identifying and responding to international crises and acts of aggression. It has 15 members, with the US, the UK, France, China, and Russia all occupying permanent seats, while the remaining ten seats are filled by non-permanent members which serve two-year terms, without the veto power held by permanent members.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, said that Chile’s 2014 – 2015 term on the council has “[reaffirmed] our belief in the need to reform the Council by increasing the number of its permanent members and limiting the scope of veto powers, at least in cases of crimes against humanity.”

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet talks before the UN General Assembly (photo courtesy of Chilean government)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet talks before the UN General Assembly (photo courtesy of Chilean government)

The President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes, echoed her calls for changes to the council’s structure and called for a more equitable representation of countries within it, saying, “If we want democracy to rule within our own republics, it is fair that we would also want it for the United Nations.”

Bachelet began her speech by referencing the migration crisis which is currently affecting Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. She insisted on the international community’s duty of “solidarity” in the treatment of “civilians who are fleeing desperately to save their lives and to create a better destiny for themselves,” adding that her government “has decided to take in refugees from the civil war in Syria” and will participate in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa from 2016.

Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, whose country recently declared migration to be a human right, was among the most vocal in criticising the migration policies of developed countries.

“For Ecuador’s government, there’s no such thing as an illegal human being,” he said, “and we think the UN should make a point of this idea. The migration policies of wealthy countries are truly shameful.”

Correa lamented that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for post-2015 do not include any mention of “the free movement of people”, highlighting the injustice of a system which encourages “the free movement of goods and money for maximum profit” while the movement of people seeking to earn a living is penalised.

He linked the current migration crisis to the failure to end global poverty, which “for the first time in history is not the result of a lack of resources but of perverse and restrictive systems”.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa at the UN (photo courtesy of Ecuadorian government)

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa at the UN (photo courtesy of Ecuadorian government)

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose country is the primary source of migrants to the US, meanwhile highlighted the need to stop “stigmatising immigrants and blaming them for the problems of the countries they arrive in”, which he said aggravates the experience of “danger, rejection, discrimination, and abuse” suffered by migrants.

“All over the world, millions of migrants are in need of a collective and effective response [to migration issues],” he concluded, “a global response which should come from the UN.”

All the Latin American leaders who spoke yesterday also raised environmental concerns, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year, with Bolivian president Evo Morales insisting that “the only good way to live” is “in harmony with Mother Earth”.

Chile’s Bachelet affirmed that “many of the challenges facing the world today cannot be solved in an isolated manner by each country”. The creation of sustainable societies, she said, “will only be possible if we can agree on a set of changes to make not only on a national level, but on a global one too.”

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Pope Francis Concludes South American Tour

Pope Francis receives a crucifix from Bolivian President Evo Morales (photo: Bolivian government)

Pope Francis receives a crucifix from Bolivian President Evo Morales (photo: Bolivian government)

Pope Francis concluded his South American tour last night after visiting Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay. He had left the Vatican on 5th July and arrived back today.

Through a number of speeches strong on political and social content, the pontiff used his visit to promote social justice and called for the protection of the poor.


Pope Francis started his South American tour in Ecuador, where he mentioned the “cry” of Latin American independence that burst over 200 years ago across the continent. “That was a cry born out of the awareness of the lack of freedom, of being squeezed, looted, subject to the circumstances of the powerful.” He added that “this cry of freedom that burst more than 200 years ago didn’t lack conviction and strength, but history shows that it was only strong when it set aside the personalities, the desire for unique leadership.”

He then encouraged the rejection of “personalities, desire for leadership, temptation of dictatorships, and sectarianism” and called for unity and an effort to “strive for inclusion at all levels, avoiding selfishness, promoting communication and dialogue, and encouraging collaboration.”


In Bolivia, Pope Francis was received by President Evo Morales, who was criticised by his gift to the Pontiff – a crucifix carved on a sickle and a hammer, a symbol that is recognised around the globe as the ‘community cross’. However, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi explained that “the pope has had no particular reaction to this and has not told me to express any particular negative reaction.”

The crucifix represents a replica of a carving done by Jesuit priest Luis Espinal Camps in the 1970s to express the union of the Christian world with Marxist ideas. The filmmaker and journalist, who headed a leftist weekly publication called ‘Aquí’, was killed after being tortured by paramilitary agents.

During his time in the Andean nation, Pope Francis harshly criticised the “dictatorship of money”, which he defined as “the devil’s dung” and the economic system “which degrades and kills.” He called for the union of Latin America in the rejection of the “new colonialism,” and the fight to overcome the “serious situations of injustice suffered by those excluded worldwide.”

The pontiff talked about the faults on the economic system that seeks to transform everything into an object for exchange and consumption, “a logic that aims to make room for very few.” He also praised social movements —referring to them as “social poets”— and called them to push for a change. “You, the most humble ones, the exploited, the poor and excluded, can do it and you do much. I dare say that the future of humanity is largely in your hands,” he said.


Pope Francis ended his tour with a visit to Paraguay before heading back to Rome.

Criticising untamed capitalism once more, he rejected the economic model that “needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profitability.”

He also criticised what he called “ideologies”, saying that “ideologies end badly, they don’t take the people into consideration. Look at what happened with the ideologies of the past century, they always ended in dictatorships.”

The pontiff reminded the public that “in the economy, business, and in politics, what comes first is the people and the habitat where they live.”

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Ecuador: Protests against Tax Bills Continue

President Rafael Correa says that the proposed changes will only affect a small percentage of Ecuadorians (photo: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

President Rafael Correa says that the proposed changes will only affect a small percentage of Ecuadorians (photo: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

Two bills proposing changes to inheritance and income taxes have sparked massive protests across Ecuador in the last three weeks, with the biggest marches taking place in the capital Quito and the cities of Guayaquil and Cuenca.

The protests against President Rafael Correa and the ruling Alianza País (AP) party have, in many cases, been organised by various opposition parties and politicians, most notably the mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot. “This is no longer the country of Correa, it is returning to be a country of all of us, free, united, and progressive,” Nebot declared.

In response, President Correa has accused the opposition of attempts to destabilise the country. He argued that the aim of the legal reforms is to achieve the well-being and social justice for the majority of the population through the redistribution of wealth. The ruling party has also organised counter protests, and the president has called for a national dialogue with the opposition. In the meantime, the president has “temporarily” withdrawn the legal reform.

The government’s call for a dialogue has not been met with enthusiasm from the opposition who argue that the government is not truly willing to negotiate. Instead, the opposition, headed by Nebot, has called for the permanent suspension of the proposed changes to inheritance and extraordinary gains taxes.

The proposed inheritance law would imply a tax of up to 47.5% over inherited property in the case of children. However, the government has assured that most Ecuadorians would be unaffected by the law. As President Correa tweeted: “Ninety-eight percent of Ecuadorians will never pay a cent of tax.” In a campaign dubbed NoDejarseEngañar (don’t let yourself be fooled) the government has invited the citizens to find out for themselves by using a generator that allows citizens to see their prospective tax rate.

The law of extraordinary gains, conversely, contemplated the payment of income tax for appreciation of value linked to speculation or public investment projects. The government argues that the current legal framework allows for the real estate industry to generate undue gains due to speculation. Again, the government assures that the proposed legal changes will not affect ordinary citizens.

“It affects yes, strongly, that 0.1% where you find the bankers who earn US$15 million per year,” Correa stated.

Despite Correa’s statement today that the worst of the protests has passed, the country is increasingly polarised. Protests are thus likely to continue in the run-up to elections in 2017.


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Ecuador: Ship Runs Aground in Galápagos Islands

There are fears the wreck could contaminate the islands' pristine waters (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are fears the wreck could contaminate the islands’ pristine waters (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Ecuadorian authorities have declared a state of emergency in the Galápagos Islands after the freighter ‘Floreana’ ran aground just off San Cristóbal Island, in the aptly named ‘Wreck Bay’.

The incident, which took place on 28th January, is the third in under a year, after Galapaface I hit the rocks last May, and a ship en route to the islands carrying 1,200 tonnes of cargo sunk close to Santa Elena Peninsula in November.

The Floreana was transporting 1,925 tonnes of cargo, including food, supplies, construction materials, and some hazardous substances, such as 37,000 litres of fuel, 11 tonnes of pinion oil, 103 gas cylinders, 48 tonnes of asphalt emulsion, and other materials, according to a bulletin issued by the Provincial Government of Galápagos.

In a press release, the Directorate of the Galápagos National Park and the Environmental Ministry reported that they have placed containment barriers and absorbent material around the Floreana to prevent possible discharge of pollutants into the bay. However, Ecuadorian navy personnel have reported the presence of contaminating material, a mixture of diesel and hydraulic oil, due to the flooding of the engine room, and the fuel leakage is said to be increasing.

Until there is evidence that the contamination has been contained, the park has closed three surfing spots near the incident area, and extra barges have been sent from the Ecuadorian mainland to accelerate unloading operations. Once the unloading is completed and the vessel is stabilised, it will be scuttled in an area outside the marine reserve.

The incident has reminded locals of the 2001 incident in which Jessica, an oil tanker, ran aground in Wreck Bay, spilling over 650,000 litres of diesel and fuel oil. It was ranked as one of the worst environmental disasters in Galápagos history.

The Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for the vast number of species and pristine environment, and are located some 900km off Ecuador’s Pacific coast.


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Ecuador: Investigation Begins into Murder of Indigenous Activist

José Isidro Tendetza was killed days before talking at the UN Climate Conference in Lima

José Isidro Tendetza was killed days before talking at the UN Climate Conference in Lima

Prosecutors have begun an investigation into the supposed murder of indigenous activist José Tendetza, whose body was discovered in suspicious circumstances last week.

Tendetza was an outspoken environmental activist leading the opposition to the Mirador open-pit mining project on land belonging to the Shuar people in the province of Zamora Chinchipe.

He was due to speak this week at the UN Climate Change Summit, COP20, in Lima, but went missing on 28th November as he travelled to a meeting with fellow protesters.

His body was found days later on the banks of a river and buried in an unmarked grave after an initial autopsy did not determine the cause of death. However, his body was unearthed again after his son, Jorge, identified him in photographs taken at the morgue, which relatives say also showed that his arms and legs had been bound.

The officials results of a second autopsy have not yet been released, but Interior Minister José Serrano said yesterday that preliminary estimates suggest Tendetza had been strangled. Serrano said he had ordered a full investigation and was offering a reward of US$100,000 to anyone who could provide vital information about the murder.

However, indigenous groups have called for an international commission to investigate the death, saying they doubted the independence of the Ecuadorian prosecutors and police. “His body was beaten, his bones broken,” said Shuar leader Domingo Ankuash. “He had been tortured and thrown in the river. The very fact that they buried him before telling us or his family is suspicious.”

Shuar community leaders say Tendetza was killed as a result of his resistance to large-scale mining in the area, noting that he had previously faced harrassment, including having his crops burned. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities in Ecuador (Conaie) noted that Tendetza was the third Shuar activist to be killed in recent years, following the shooting of Bosco Wisum by police in 2009 and the killing of Fredy Taish by the military in 2013.

The Shuar community and environmental groups say that open-pit mining will destroy up to 450,000 acres of forest in Ecuador’s southern Amazon, an area of great biodiversity and home to indigenous communities. Its leaders criticise the government for protecting business interests of the rights of its citizens.

“Without consulting anybody the government gave our land to Ecuacorriente [the Chinese-owned firm leading the Mirador mining project],” Ankuash told AP. “They put up fences and destroyed everything that was inside them: houses and crops… this is what our dead partner was demanding, because he could not access lands that were his all of his life and that of his grandparents.”

The Ecuadorian government has also faced sharp criticism from environmental groups for allowing oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park. Last week, a group of 17 activists heading to the Lima Conference had their bus confiscated by police before they could cross the border into Peru.

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UN World Conference on Indigenous People Closes

Evo Morales (Photo by Sebastian Baryli)

Evo Morales (Photo by Sebastian Baryli)

The first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples drew to a close in New York yesterday, with Latin American nations taking a leading role.

Bolivian president Evo Morales inaugurated the two-day summit on Monday, calling himself living proof that indigenous people “can govern and not just vote”.

The central issues addressed in the forum, considered a special meeting as part of the 69th UN General Assembly, were land and territory, food sovereignty, and environment.

The summit culminated in the unanimous agreement of governments to draw up national plans to protect the rights of indigenous groups in their countries, including a clause that governments must obtain “free, prior and informed consent” from indigenous peoples on matters that affected them, including legislative measures and development projects.

During the conference, strategies were also discussed to ensure the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Bolivian president said the conference must be the start of something bigger.

“This conference must be a starting point in determining the collective actions that must be taken in the defence of life in order to initiate a process of transformation and change through the sovereignty and science of our indigenous peoples,” he said.

In his opening remarks, President Morales warned that capitalism and unbridled development of land are the greatest threat to indigenous movements around the world.

“The fundamental principles of the indigenous movement are life, mother earth, and peace, and these principles of the worldwide indigenous movement are permanently threatened by a system and model, the capitalist system, a model which extinguishes human life and the mother earth,” he said.

The conference was launched after a report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC) praised his government and that of Ecuador for the progress made in guaranteeing basic rights to indigenous communities. The study recognised efforts made by La Paz and Quito to improve indigenous communities’ access to healthcare and education but highlighted that a lot remains to be done in Latin America to fully guarantee the rights of the 45-million strong indigenous population that inhabits the Southern Cone.

President Morales, noted a number of advances made in Bolivia under his leadership that he says have directly benefited indigenous peoples. Most notable, said Morales, has been Bolivia’s efforts in reducing extreme poverty. A recent UN Development Program report found that Bolivia experienced the greatest relative drop in extreme poverty in Latin America between 2000 and 2012.

In his speech, President Morales also mentioned that Bolivia is the first and only country to have fully incorporated the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into its constitution. Bolivia’s new constitution was approved by popular referendum in 2009.

Following the inauguration, President Morales met with UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon for talks, who praised the president as a “symbol of the developing world”.

Up to 2,200 indigenous representatives from roughly 100 countries around the world attended the conference.

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Ecuador Officially Recognises Same-Sex Civil Unions

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa meets members of the LGBT community in 2013 (Photo via Silueta X)

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa meets members of the LGBT community in 2013 (Photo via Silueta X)

Same-sex couples in Ecuador will be able to officially register their civil union from today, considered an important step in tackling discrimination in a country where gay marriage is illegal.

Resolution 174, which was emitted in August by the Civil Registry and came into effect today, allows same-sex unions to formalise their civil status on national identification documents. The measure will afford same-sex couples the same civil rights as heterosexual partnerships, including on matters of estate and medical consent.

“The gay, lesbian, transgender and transsexual communities have the full constitutional right to include their civil union on their ID cards,” said President Rafael Correa after the resolution was approved.

From today, same-sex couples can register their civil union in offices in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, though this will later be rolled out across the country.

Trans activist Diane Rodríguez, who has campaigned for equal rights as founder and head of the organisation ‘X Silhouette’, described the measure as a “huge step forward.”

“For example, in emergencies, my partner can make decisions about my health care at a hospital. Or at the bank, we can open a joint account. Before this, couples had a lot of problems because they had no documents to prove they were married,” Rodríguez, who will be among the first to exercise her new right with her transsexual boyfriend today, told Think Progress.

While the LGBT community celebrates the reforms, same-sex marriage remains illegal in Ecuador, with Correa himself saying that he did not support it. According to the country’s constitution, same sex couples are not allowed to marry or adopt children.

Rodríguez acknowledged that much work was still needed, but said the priority was to ensure that the LGBT community is granted the same constitutional rights as all citizens.

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Ecuador: Officers Sentenced to Prison for Attempting to Kill President

The unrest on 30-S started with police protests at proposed salary cuts (photo/Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

The unrest on 30-S started with police protests at proposed salary cuts (photo/Presidencia de la República del Ecuador)

Six police officers were sentenced to 12 years prison by a court in Ecuador yesterday, weeks after being found guilty of the attempted murder of President Rafael Correa during the 2010 police uprising.

The officers had been found guilty by the courts on 1st August, and received the maximum sentence permitted for the crime of attempted murder of the president.

The six were found guilty of shooting at Correa outside the police hospital during a military operation to rescue the president after a 12-hour siege. As he escaped, Correa’s vehicle received a hail of bullets, while one of his bodyguards was shot and killed. “You can see these people in videos with guns, with their faces covered and ready to shoot at the president,” declared prosecutor Gustavo Benítez in the trial.


On 30th September 2010, police protesting changes to benefits revolted, going on strike, blocking roads, and taking over the main airport in Quito. Correa visited the main barracks to negotiate with the leaders of the rebellion, but was injured after a tear gas canister exploded near him.

Police then surrounded the hospital in which Correa was receiving treatment, leaving the president trapped for several hours until loyal military troops broke him out. Clashes on the streets led to 10 deaths and over 270 injuries.

The revolt was immediately condemned as an “attempted coup” by the Union of South American State (Unasur).

Earlier this year, an investigation into the events of ’30-S’ concluded that the incident was support by political and economic opposition. Oscar Bonilla, member of the commission, said: “Those responsible were political actors, military organisations, sectors of the police and members of the Armed Forces that joined the action, and real local powers links to international groups who also planned the events from outside of the country.”

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Ecuador: Earthquake Leaves Three Dead, Several Injured

quito earthquakeA 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck near the Ecuadorian capital of Quito yesterday afternoon, killing at least three people and injuring at least a dozen.

Two deaths occurred when several construction workers were buried by a landslide while working on a bridge in Mitad del Mundo, 26km north of Quito. One of the bodies was found in the area this morning as rescue efforts continued. Authorities say one other person remains missing.

The third fatality was that of a 4-year-old boy who was alleged crushed by large bags of rice that fell during the earthquake.

A state of emergency remains in place in the worst affected districts. However, transport services resumed as normal today, including at Quito airport, which was closed for several hours yesterday.

President Rafael Correa expressed his sorrow for the deaths last night, noting that illegal mining activity destabilises the ground and increases the risk of landslides. “Of course, the earthquake caused the landslide,” said Correa, “but the earth was already fragile due to illegal mining and quarries exploited without technical expertise.”

Dozens of aftershocks have been registered since the first tremor, which occurred at approximately 3pm local time yesterday.

Earthquakes are relatively common in Ecuador. The worst disaster in recent history occurred in 1949, when a 6.8-magnitude tremor killed more than 6,000 people.

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Ecuador Signs Free Trade Agreement with European Union

Ecuador's bananas are excluded from the deal

Ecuador’s bananas are excluded from the deal

After four years of negotiations, Ecuador has joined the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union, Colombia, and Peru. The accord means that Ecuadorian exports will enter the EU without duties, providing the Andean nation with a new market of 500m inhabitants.

Ecuador’s foreign trade minister, Francisco Rivadeneira, called the agreement “ambitious”.

He said: “After nearly four years of work, today we finally closed a balanced accord with the European Union, which maximises opportunities, minimises costs, respects the country’s development model, and protects our sensitive sectors.”

President Rafael Correa announced on Monday that an agreement could be signed this week, underscoring that the country had negotiated “higher thresholds” than its neighbours, and adding that the most difficult negotiations had been over agricultural produce. Bananas, one of the country’s biggest exports, are excluded from the deal.

The latest deal means Ecuador now enjoys free trade with 28 more nations, adding to the country’s previous agreements with China, India, Russia, and most of its South American neighbours.

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