Ecuador’s armed forces last week began transferring responsibility for the permitting of firearms to the national police. In addition to the change of authority, the new system will establish an up-graded computerized database of gun ownership.

Ecuadorian authorities, including President Rafael Correa, say that the current system makes it too easy for criminals to obtain weapons and that the armed forces are not equipped to handled the due diligence necessary to make sure permits are issued only to law-abiding citizens.

Rafael Yepez, chairman of the Police Judicial Commission, said that new requirements will be more rigorous than those required by the military, and that record-keeping will be improved. A final version of the new rules is still in the works, Yepez said, and will require final approval from the legislative commission on firearms.

The armed forces will continue to handle permitting for high-caliber weaponry, Yepez said.


ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS TO CAJAS PARK BEING INVESTIGATED
 
According to national and provincial officials, the Cajas National Park is facing an increasing number of environmental threats. Among these are the installation of cell phone and internet transmission towers and construction in or on the park boundary, they say.

Since March, the government has opened investigations of property owners constructing buildings in protected areas just outside the park as well as alleged illegal construction within the park.

The Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment has asked the city of Cuenca to make sure that none of its projects are in violation of environmental laws. “In some cases, immediate intervention is required to maintain the integrity of the park,” said ministry official Franklin Bucheli in a letter to Cuenca mayor Marcelo Cabrera.

 

BUSINESS IS GOOD AMONG BUSINESSES IN CUENCA’S INDUSTRIAL PARK

Despite the global economic crisis, companies located in Cuenca’s Industrial Park report that business has been good in the first five months of 2009. 

According to Victor Hugo, president of the Park Association, tenants have seen a slight increase in sales so far this year. Hugo attributes the stability to the fact that most of the companies are in fiscally strong positions and are not seeking loans from financial institutions. ”The credit market is tight these days so it is a big advantage that our members can finance their own costs and growth,” Hugo said.

The Association includes 90 of the 130 tenants in the park. Park tenants include technology firms, manufacturers of furniture, metal and rubber products, ceramic tile and food products.

 

AZUAY ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES AT RISK, OFFICIALS SAY

According to the Azuay Institute of Cultural Heritage, 186 archaeologically significant cites in the province, including 15 in Cuenca, have been partially damaged or disturbed in the last year.

Most of the damage, according to the institute, is the result of construction and agricultural activity. The institute is responsible for tracking an inventory of 1,072 sites within the province and for working with landowners to provide information to help preserve sensitive areas.