President Rafael Correa has sent his request to authorize oil drilling in the Yasuní preserve to the national assembly. He made the announcement during his Saturday televison broadcast.

He said that assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira will coordinate efforts to bring the proposal to a vote. “First, there needs to be discusson with all sides expressing their points of view,” Correa said. “Then, the assembly should proceed to a vote.”

Correa again claimed that modern technology can limit environmental damage to the pristine Amazon area. "Of course there will be an impact but this can be minimized with smart technogloy.” He repeated that no roads would be built in Yasuní and that equipment and personnel would be delivered by river and helicopter.

He cited a new poll showing that 56% of Ecuadorians support Yasuní drilling. The poll contradicts earlier polls showing 86% and 90% of respondents opposing drilling. Correa said, however, that the new poll is more accurate, noting that it was performed by Gallup, an international polling organization.


Correa wants to make things easier for business

Continuing a theme he began a week earlier, Rafael Correa said bureaucractic requirements for starting a business in Ecuador are overly burdensome and that the process needs to be streamlined.

He made the comments during his weekly television broadcast on Saturday. Last week, he said that excessive requirements in all areas of government were an attack on the rights of Ecuadorians and announced plans to reduce paperwork and put more official interaction between citizens and the government online.

Correa showed a chart showing that it takes, on average, 56 days to start a business in Ecuador compared to three in Chile. Another graphic showed that starting a business in Ecuador requires 13 steps while it only takes five in Chile and seven Uruguay.

“This is outrageous and needs to change,” Correa said. “We need to get beyond the mentality of a bureaucracy that wants to control everything and that puts up unnecessary obstacles for citizens who want to invest in their country. We need to see how other countries do this and follow their good examples.”

Correa also said he wants to reduce the current requirement that new business applicants need to show they have $800 in the bank to qualify. “This is silly. Obviously, they will need a lot more than this when they start to operate the business but there’s no reason they should have $800 when they apply for a license,” he said. “I think $100 in the bank is fine.”

He said that he has asked Ecuador’s minister of production Richard Espinosa to develop streamlined rules for new businesses and to work with the national assembly to develop laws to implement the changes.


More problems with Chinese companies

A court in Manabi Province has impounded 28 dump trucks and tanker trunks belonging to a Chinese company in a labor dipute. According to the judgement, Tiesiju Corporation failed to fully compensate employees when it abandoned work on a Chone River water project last month.

The case is one of several in Ecuador in which workers have accused Chinese companies of underpayment. Workers have also charged that Chinese management mistreats workers, violating Ecuadorian law.

In April of this year, Tiesiju workers went on strike claiming abuse and delayed compensation. The Ecuadorian ministry of labor intervened in that case.

Santiago Vera, union leader for Tiesiju workers, says the management refused to work with the union to find solutions to problems. “They are very anti-union and prefer that workers have no organized protection,” he said. “Ecuador needs to be very careful about bringing Chinese companies into the country. They have a culture of not respecting the rights of workers.”

Photo caption: National Assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira