Ecuador has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and four other drugs. The move, which was expected, came last week when the National Council of Control of Narcotic and Psychotropic Drugs (CONSEP) published a table of drug possession limits.

The limit for marijuana possession was set at 10 grams.

CONSEP said that the new rule does not constitute a “legalization” of drugs but that police have been ordered not to make arrests for quanities of drugs below limits listed in the table.

Canábico, an Ecuadorian advocacy group for legalization of  marijuana, said the decriminalization is a step in the right direction but says it will continue to push for full legalization.

Gabriel Buitrón, founder of Ecuador Canábico, says, “The drug problem isn’t consumers, it’s the black market, which generates violence, human trafficking, and the highest murder rate in Latin America.”

He says the law needs to go farther to protect people who grow marijuana for personal use. In Spain, he says, cannabis consumers can form cooperatives to grow enough plants for the collective.

Other drugs included on CONSEP’s decriminalization list include concaine, heroine and methamphetamines.


Ecuador has most refugees in Latin America

According to the United Nations, Ecuador has more political refugees than any other country in Latin America. The UN says that 99% of the refurgees come from neighboring Colombia and are fleeing the civil war in the southern region of that country.

The number of Ecuador’s refugees is officially put at 55,249 although authorities say the unofficial count is probably closer to 100,000.

According to the UN, most refugees in Ecuador live in poverty with 60% of them living in urban areas and the rest in small communities near the Colombian border.

Cities with the largest numbers of refugees, according to officials, are Ibarra with 7,000, Quito with 5,000 and Cuenca with 2,500.


Ecuador to construct 40 new tech schools

Ecuador’s Office of Higher Education, Science and Technology (Senescyt) will build 40 technical educational centers by 2016. Senescyt says $308 million have been allocated for construction.

The schools will focus on specific skills, such as industrial mechanics, computer science and food processing, and that an evaluation process is underway to determine where the centers will be built, although most will be in urban reas.

Senescyt says the new centers will offer technical and vocational training not currently available in Ecuador.