El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Truth About Health Care in Ecuador

By Dan Prescher
International Living
When my wife, Suzan, and I heard that we could get what is commonly called an "executive health assessment" in Quito, Ecuador, we decided to give it a try.

Our primary care physician, Dr. Davalos, works with Hospital Metropolitano in Quito to put together a comprehensive package of tests that cover all the health bases over a two-day period. This seemed like a great way to combine health and happiness to us... Living up north in the small town of Cotacachi, we looked forward to our executive health assessment as a good chance to get our big-city Quito fix of fun and food at the same time.

Our plan was to stay in one of our favorite hotels, Hotel Sebastian, during the two-day test period and enjoy the nightlife of the Mariscal neighborhood the night between our tests. 

But by the end of the first day of blood drawing, sonograms, mammograms, x-rays, treadmill tests, and some tests on things we didn’t even know could or should be tested, we learned that we were staying in the hospital overnight. Not to enjoy the many gastronomic pleasures of Quito, but to prepare ourselves for the next day’s colonoscopy and endoscopy...

....a literal stem-to-stern look into the darkest recesses of our bodies that meant we had to spend the night making sure there was nothing left inside to block the view.

I’ll leave the rest to the imagination, but it wasn’t the night we had in mind. And not knowing we’d be staying at the hospital, we’d left all of our personal items in our room at Hotel Sebastian. No worries, though... one phone call to the hotel and all of our things were packed up and delivered directly to our hospital room by private courier. Hotel Sebastian charged us $6 to do so, but didn’t charge us for the room we’d booked for that night.

At the end of it all, Dr. Davalos and the specialists at Hospital Metropolitano had collected a mountain of data on us. A few days later we received it all in a folder, including all test results and a CD with the images taken during the exams, along with a detailed explanation by Dr. Davalos of what all the results meant.
Turns out we’re both healthy with no major medical issues. Good news.

We paid out of pocket for the health assessment, and the final bill for both of us, including the overnight in semi-private double room, was $3,951.39. I’ve compared this to prices for similar executive health assessments in the U.S., and I figure we paid about half the going U.S. rate—and far less if you factor in the overnight stay.

Lessons learned?
1. "Executive" means something different in Latin America. In the U.S., an executive health assessment is one that is done quickly in a spa-like atmosphere so the executive feels pampered and can return to his or her important business as quickly as possible.
In Latin America, or at least in Quito, Ecuador, an executive health assessment is one that includes as many tests as possible on someone who doesn’t necessarily need to be in the office for a few days.
2. If you’re curious about the specifics of any treatment you’re about to receive in Latin America... ask. If you don’t, it will be assumed—even by doctors with excellent English—that you will be a normal Latin American patient and happily do whatever you’re told to do by medical authorities when and for as long as you’re told to do it. We assumed we’d have the night between our test days free to do as we pleased. We were wrong, and it wasn’t Dr. Davalos’ fault for not telling us. It was our fault for not asking. But who knew...
3. After 12 years abroad, we’ve already learned this lesson, but it’s worth repeating: In almost any major metropolitan area throughout Latin America, you can get U.S. quality health care provided with modern equipment by world-class professionals for a fraction of the cost in the States.
Even though Suzan and I had to postpone our Quito restaurant binge until after our assessment, it was worth it. And if we never have another endoscopy or colonoscopy again, it will be too soon.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

But wait...now El Presidente sounds like a capitalist........

Ecuador's Correa plans no sweeping reforms, wants investment

QUITO (Reuters) - Beaming after his re-election last weekend, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said on Thursday he is not planning sweeping reforms and instead hopes to attract investors and diversify the economy from its dependence on oil exports.

Since taking office in 2007, the U.S.-trained economist defaulted on $3.2 billion of debt, rewrote contracts with oil companies to squeeze more revenue from them, and pushed through a new constitution that gave him more power.

"Everything has been done and there will not be any more big changes. There will not be tax reforms either. That was a mess and it has been improved quite a lot," Correa told Reuters in an interview.
"The rules of the game are clear and now we hope that investors will continue coming."

The 49-year-old president said the ruling party would push ahead with a mining reform in Congress that would let the government sign a contract with Canada's Kinross for a large gold project. He said the deal would be finalized in August.

Correa also said that even though Ecuador was struggling to obtain financing, the $12.5 billion Pacifico refinery would be operating within schedule in 2016.

He said China, Qatar and South Korea are interested in financing the project.

Correa also said that in the future he could consider issuing debt for the first time since the 2008 debt default.
(Reporting by Eduardo Garcia and Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Daniel Wallis and David Brunnstrom)

Move over Hitler, Mussilini, Franco and Pinochet......

Ecuador: Dictatorship of the 21st Century?

By Andres Oppenheimer


Many people are surprised by Rafael Correa’s sweeping victory in Sunday’s Ecuadorean presidential election, despite his government’s massive corruption scandals and his record of repression against the media and political opponents.

But if you look closer, it shouldn’t be surprising at all.

On the contrary, it would have been amazing if the result had been any different.

That’s what I concluded after talking a few days after the elections with former Ecuadoran president Osvaldo Hurtado, who has just published a new book entitled Dictatorships of the XXIst Century. The book’s title mocks Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Correa and other autocratic presidents’ claims that they are building a “Socialism of the XXIst Century.”

I asked Hurtado how Correa had won with 57 percent of the vote, even after several much-publicized corruption scandals.

In case you missed the recent headlines from Ecuador, Correa’s cousin Pedro Delgado resigned as head of the Central Bank Dec. 19 after press reports that he had lied about having an economics degree. More importantly, Delgado allegedly used a government agency created by Correa to give loans to government friends for projects that never materialized.

That was only the latest corruption scandal involving Correa’s inner circle. The president’s own brother, Fabricio Correa, has publicly confirmed that he received huge government contracts — for as much as $300 million, according to press reports — from the Correa administration and that the president was aware of such transactions.

Still, none of this seems to have hurt the president, because of an economic boom spurred by soaring world oil prices and Ecuador’s dollarization in recent years.

“Ecuador is going through what may be its most prosperous moment in history,” Hurtado told me.

“Wherever you look, there are new buildings, brand-new luxury malls, and more cars on the streets.”

Hurtado noted that the boom started years before Correa took office in 2007. World oil prices have risen from about $9 a barrel in 1999 to $100 a barrel today, and “in fact, poverty had gone down more rapidly before Correa took office, than after he took office.”

Interestingly, Ecuador’s rich seem to have voted for Correa in about the same proportion as the country’s poor, Hurtado said.

In addition to Ecuador’s oil-driven prosperity, Correa won because the election rules were tailor-made to help his candidacy. The president controls all government institutions, which has allowed him to spend freely on self-aggrandizing propaganda and to impose growing controls on the media, Hurtado said.

Under Correa’s election laws, Ecuadoran media were not allowed to publish “biased” reports on any candidate, which amounted to a de facto censorship of any story critical of Correa, or of his government.
Also, Correa has invoked an imaginary international media conspiracy to close down or take over several formerly independent radio and television stations, and has intimidated newspapers by filing lawsuits that may drive many of them out of business.
Hurtado told me that “unlike the dictatorships of the past, which took power with a coup d’etat, closed down the Congress and replaced the president, the dictatorships of the XXI Century ignore the constitutional order under which they were elected and create a new constitutional order that allows them to stay in power forever.

“After a while, they become dictatorships,” he added.

What should pro-democracy people in Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia and other autocracies do? Hurtado responded that there is not much they can do, except participating with one single candidate so as not to divide the opposition vote.

“The answer should come from the Organization of American States (OAS,) since these governments are violating several articles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” Hurtado said. “But unfortunately, the OAS has remained silent. There seems to be a double standard, in which the OAS lashes out against dictatorships of the right, but not against dictatorships of the left."

My opinion: I agree. These narcissist-Leninist autocracies have been in power for several years now, and they all seem to follow the same manual: their leaders run for office as anti-corruption and pro-democracy crusaders, and as soon as they are elected, they change the rules of the game to grab absolute powers.
They may not last forever, because Chávez’s illness, for example, declining commodity prices, and disastrous economic policies may further weaken them in the near future. But for now, nobody should be surprised by Correa’s “sweeping victory.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/20/3244719/ecuador-dictatorship-of-the-21st.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/20/3244719/ecuador-dictatorship-of-the-21st.html#storylink=cpy

G.K Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc would have found their man in Correa......REDISTRIBUTION

Ecuador's Correa vows to make socialist revolution "irreversible"

By Eduardo Garcia

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said his party likely won three-quarters of the seats in Congress in last weekend's election and vowed on Wednesday to "steamroll" through reforms that will make his socialist model irreversible.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa talks to the media during an international news conference at Carondelet Palace in Quito February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa talks to the media during an international news conference at Carondelet Palace in Quito February 20, 2013. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

The 49-year-old economist was re-elected on Sunday with 57 percent of votes, some 34 percentage points more than the runner-up. During his six years in office he has won broad support with high spending on infrastructure and social welfare.

Results are still being compiled, but Correa said the ruling Alianza Pais party probably won about 73 percent of Congress' 137 seats. That means he will be able to push through reforms, although he said he would respect different political opinions.

"This is going to be a legislative steamroller to serve the interests of the Ecuadorean people. ... In democracy, the winners rule, but the losers have to be respected," he told foreign reporters at the presidential palace.
"We're overwhelmed with the amount of support from people. ... We're going to deepen the citizen's revolution, build a new homeland and make it irreversible."

Final results from Sunday's congressional and presidential votes are expected to be published in the coming days.

Correa first took office in 2007 vowing to increase revenue from the OPEC nation's oil resources and cut debt obligations to fund spending on roads, hospitals and schools.

He also promised to press ahead with socialist reforms to empower the low-income majority and dismantle what he called an elitist system that controlled the state and neglected the poor.

Among the bills Correa has pledged to push are a plan to distribute idle land among the poor, and a media law to regulate content in newspapers and TV networks - which could stoke an ongoing confrontation with opposition media.

"We'll ask for the same things that we asked for before this resounding victory: for the media to be decent, ethical, to inform instead of manipulate, to communicate instead of getting involved in politics," the president said.

In the past, Correa has called journalists "dogs" and "hired assassins," and has filed lawsuits against reporters and media owners who he says are determined to undermine his government.
He is also expected to pass a new mining law to ease investment terms that could pave the way for the development of some large and mid-sized projects that would let Ecuador diversify its economy away from a dependence on oil exports.

Correa said he did not want to play a leading role in the ALBA alliance of leftist Latin American presidents at a time when the bloc's figurehead, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has been silenced by his battle with cancer.

"No one is looking for anything for themselves," he said, referring to other leftist presidents in the region including Bolivia's Evo Morales. "We want to help people and if I can help by being Hugo's chauffeur, that's what I'll do," he said.


Correa also accused U.S. oil company Chevron of waging a global campaign to discredit Ecuador over a $19 billion (12.4 billion pounds) ruling against the company for polluting the Ecuadorean Amazon.
A tribunal, acting under The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration, earlier this month said Ecuador's government should have stopped plaintiffs in the case from going to court in Brazil, Argentina and Canada to try to collect judgment.
"These tribunals are pimps," Correa said. "They're there to defend the interests of investors, the capital of foreign companies. Don't fool yourselves."

In 2011 an Ecuadorean court ordered Chevron to pay billions to local plaintiffs who had accused the company of wrecking the jungle with faulty drilling practices in the 1970s and 1980s.

Chevron has contested the judgment, saying it uncovered evidence of fraud by lawyers for the plaintiffs - allegations the lawyers deny.

Correa said Latin American countries should join forces to protect themselves from "abuse" by foreign investors.

"We have to continue working toward unity because together we can set the rules," he said. "If we're divided, then the capitalists will set the rules and they will continue abusing, wrecking our countries, like Chevron did."

(Additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Daniel Walllis and Todd Eastham)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sun setting on US influence in oil-rich Ecuador


Clever people the Ecuadorians, don’t underestimate them. It is not easy to find people who will persuade you to give them hard cash in exchange for cheap crude oil, and then convince you to leave it in the ground and not to take it away – for the sake of the planet.

One such person is seeking a new term as president of the poor Andean republic of Ecuador tomorrow.

Unsurprisingly the omens seem good for the re-election of Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, now approaching his 50th birthday and married to a Belgian whom he met when studying economics in Belgium. He may well win a third term in the Carondelet Palace, the presidential residence located among the gold-encrusted baroque churches in the old colonial capital of Quito.

Latin American leadership

To his supporters, Correa could well take on a leadership role in a Latin America which may soon be struck by the disappearance of the ailing Fidel Castro, who has passed over most of his prerogatives to his octogenarian younger brother Raúl. The future for Hugh Chávez of Venezuela is also far from certain.
An area in Ecuador known as Yasuní-ITT could be one of the electoral aces in Correa’s hand. His
government has undertaken to conserve, rather than exploit, the oil-rich area, which contains more than 800 million barrels of oil, in exchange for about half the fuel’s market value. And it has just seen the fruits of the idea.

The first tranche of money, almost $9 million (€6.74 million), was committed last month from a trust fund administered by the UN, to build the Huapamala hydroelectric scheme near the provincial capital of Loja. The fund has so far collected $300 million – a start on the target of $3 billion that the Ecuadorians and their sponsors want to raise.
Strong hand

No Ecuadorian president can expect to survive if he or she neglects to take a strong hand with the oil companies, which in the recent past did not just pay rock-bottom prices for the crude but left the oilfields looking like Iraq after the Anglo-American invasion. Ecuador was an early member of Opec but foreign pressure from the oil companies forced it out in 1992 and it rejoined only in 2007.

In February 2011, an Ecuadorian court fined US oil company Chevron more than $18 billion for damage done to to indigenous communities between 1964 and 1990. Chevron is appealing, and an international tribunal is due to rule on the matter next year.

As the sun starts to go down on the US oil companies, the Chinese are moving in and buying much more Ecuadorian oil. The sun has already set on the big US air and sea bases in the port of Manta on which the Ecuadorians gave Washington a 10-year lease in 1999.

Correa’s stock is rising, particularly among poorer Ecuadorians. If he wins another term of office tomorrow, it will rise even more.

Famed US hacker helps Ecuador secure its vote

Consider yourself a renegade???? Ecuador is for you.............

QUITO: Kevin Mitnick, who once gained notoriety as America's most wanted computer hacker, now heads a thriving Internet consultancy tasked with helping keep Sunday's presidential elections in Ecuador secure.
"Eighteen years ago I was busted for hacking. I do the same thing today but with full authorization. How cool is that?" Mitnick wrote on his @kevinmitnick Twitter account on the eve of the vote.

Mitnick, 49, was behind a spree of break-ins of hundreds of corporate, university and personal computers on the Internet during the 1990s, with blue chip targets that included the Apple Computer, Motorola and the FBI.

After being caught and convicted for 15 years of cybercrimes, he was imprisoned between 1995 and 2000.
Today his company, Mitnick Security Consulting, helps to reinforce the very same security vulnerabilities that he once used his considerable hacking skills to exploit.

On Sunday, his company will focus on protecting the Net Lock computer system tasked with tabulating Ecuador's elections.

The incumbent president, Rafael Correa, is the prohibitive favorite to win re-election - assuming no foul play from exactly the sort of malicious actors that Mitnick has been hired to guard against.
Mitnick is rueful about his youthful days as a cyber outlaw. He says his hobby of hacking had its roots in his childhood.

"When I was a young kid I was really fascinated with magic, which I found, was similar to hacking. And I was a prankster as well, so I combined both," he said.

Mitnick started with simple gags: breaking into the phone lines of friends, hacking the self-service line at the local fast food restaurant so that automated voice would chide overweight customers to steer clear of the fattier menu items.

Later, as Mitnick graduated to more sophisticated hacking activities, he came to love the thrill of the chase, as he managed time and again to elude the authorities who tried to track his online exploits.
Eventually he targeted the biggest fish of all - the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"It became kind of cat and mouse with the FBI. I was a fugitive from the FBI for a long time, when they were trying to get me I would track them through the cellular system and outsmart them," he told AFP.

His targeting of America's federal cops proved his undoing, however. FBI agents, angered by his taunting of them, were able to track and eventually arrest Mitnick in 1995, with the help of a Japanese computer expert.
Mitnick said he has gone straight since his release from prison, and now uses his talents to track down other cyber miscreants.

He told AFP that - like the magic tricks he loved as a child - the hacking trade works through a kind of sleight of hand.

"It's using manipulation, deception and influence to get a person to do some sort of action or reveal information," he said

But while it was intoxicating to figure out how to tap into the world's most secure computer networks, Mitnick said he never did so for financial gain.

"It was all for intellectual challenge, the adventure and the thrill," he said.

"I never tried to profit or tried to publish it," he said. "I kept it to myself to understand how things work."
Some see a certain irony in the fact that Mitnick, in monitoring Sunday's elections, is aiding the same Ecuador government that is sheltering another Internet vigilante - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Assange took refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and sexual assault.

The Australian former computer hacker enraged Washington after WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic cables, revealing a sometimes embarrassing, behind the scenes glimpse of American diplomacy, and causing what US officials called a major security breach.
For his part, Mitnick said he views Assange as blameless for the leaks.

"Julian Assange was just the receiver of the information, the one who published it. I don't look at him as criminally culpable."

 On the other hand, "the whole thing speaks very badly about the US military security," the Internet safety expert said, calling the massive document release "one of the biggest security wake-up calls of the century." -AFP

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The new Quito airport opens....updates and effects on Ecuador....

When flying to Ecuador, you only have two options, you can fly into Quito or Guayaquil.

This week on February 20th, the new international airport in Quito is expected to open.

This is huge news for Ecuador and anyone interested in investing here.

Many thought it would never open, myself included.

It's just too damn inconvenient, the new airport is a good hour and a half from the city where the current airport is right smack dab in the middle of it in a cool yet terrifying sort of way.

So why did they decide to build a new airport? 

The current one just got outgrown.  When constructed 60 years ago it was on the far fringes of the city, now its right in the northern central part of Quito.  It also became unsafe as about one or two planes a year fabulously overshoot the narrow runway.

Additionally, the airport and runway are not suitable for accommodating the larger planes that could drive prices down for flights (which is a big plus for stimulating tourism).

Effects on the city of Quito? 

The new airport will have profound effects on the city.  Skyscapers will now be allowed to be built higher, which could drive already high (for Ecuador) property prices downward.  The area around the current airport will probably wither on the vine, it already is a seedy area that will not get any better now that the legit airport-related businesses will be on their way out.

Many travelers whose final destination is somewhere in Ecuador other than Quito will probably opt to go through now more convenient Guayaquil or not bother to pass through the city of Quito at all scheduling their connecting flights back to back to their international arrivals.

The short Quito-Guayaquil flight is the most trafficked route in all of South America, but may not be any longer as more people will choose not to travel as often or use the bus considering the increase in travel times.

The area of the current airport will  be converted into a park, convention center and several large roads servicing the different areas of Quito.

Effects on Ecuador? 

Folks who live in the north of Ecuador in the Otavalo or Cotacachi area will be positively effected by the new airport as the new airport is now an hour closer to home and they no longer have to pass through the city of Quito.

Most travelers who plan to travel onward to the coast, Galapagos or Cuenca will probably opt to pass through Guayaquil where the airport is still smack dab in the middle of the city.

One positive effect for the country is that international airfares are likely to drop as more routes are added to the mix.  Also, national airfares are also likely to drop to the decrease in demand that is likely to be seen at least in the short run.

Interesting facts about the new airport...

- The runway measures 13,421ft compared to the 10,236ft runway of the current airport.

- The elevation of the new airport is at 7,800ft compared to the 9,200ft of the old airport making it a safer destination for planes.

- The capacity of the new airport will be 5 million travelers per year, roughly one million more than the actual airport.

- Taxi fares to or from Quito will range from $16-30 and taxis will not be required to use the taxi meter.

- New direct routes will be opened up immediately to Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, México City., Nueva York, Los Angeles and Chicago.  Particularly great for folks who live in the western USA.

- Airport taxes will be increases roughly $9-15 on international fares but they are bult into the ticket prices as they are now.

- There will be no air traffic in Quito from 7pm on FEB 19 until the morning of FEB 20 as over 2500 trucks haul the equipment between the two airports.

- In 2017 the airport plans to begin to build a second runway.

- To arrive you can take the public buses from the Rio Coca station in the north of Quito or one of the transit buses that will leave from the old airport connecting it to the new one.

And in the spirit of this post I'm pleased to announce the opening of my newest business, Quito Airport Suites, a small boutique hotel located just 2 minutes from the entrance of the new airport outside of Quito.  Guests will enjoy their stay in a typical Spanish-hacienda type property with WIFI internet, cable TV with English channels, 24 hr reception, English speaking staff, breakfast included, airport transfers, a restaurant, parking, free storage and pets are allowed.
Rates start at $45 for a single room, $55 for a double (subject to change), make your reservation here

Expat, Ex-snow ski slalom racer
Quito Airport Suites
Murali Hostal Guayaquil

Why Ecuador's Correa looks set to win Sunday's presidential election


By Irene Caselli, Correspondent / February 15, 2013

President Correa has been criticized internationally for limiting press freedoms and granting Julian Assange asylum in Ecuador's London embassy. But his social programs and public works projects have been popular at home.


Quito, Ecuador
With neon green flags dotting the landscape and pictures of the president overlooking newly-built highways, Ecuador's electoral campaign looks like a one-man show.
That man is Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador since 2007, running for his third term in office on Feb. 17. Electric green is the color of his party, Alianza Pais.

Posters and pictures of the other seven candidates are present, but not as visible as President Correa's.
"We already have a president," says his campaign motto, heard in jingles played on the radio. "We have Rafael."
According to most polls, Correa, a US-trained economist, will take between 50 and 60 percent of the vote this weekend. That is at least 30 percent more than the next most popular candidate, former banker Guillermo Lasso.

But with international headlines condemning Correa for restrictions on freedom of the press after he won several lawsuits against local private media, and more negative coverage following the government's decision to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum in its London embassy, it may come as a surprise that after six years in power, the president remains so popular at home. But for the majority of those living in Ecuador, Correa stands ready for reelection for a reason.

"This is a president who has done something that other presidents haven't done: public works and services," says Ralph Murphine, a US political consultant who advised Correa during his 2006 election campaign.
Before Correa came to power, Ecuador had seven presidents in 10 years and went through a huge financial crisis, which led to the dollarization of the economy in 2000.
Correa's leadership marked numerous changes in Ecuador. High prices for oil exports resulted in higher revenues, which the government invested in social programs and public infrastructure. At the same time, his high popularity gave Correa the opportunity to consolidate his power to carry out what he called a "Citizens's Revolution."

Roads have been paved and expanded; more schools and hospitals have been built, providing free education and healthcare to all Ecuadorians. Particular attention has been given to the disabled, a policy pushed hard by Correa's paraplegic vice president. New legislation was approved, making it compulsory for companies to fill at least 4 percent of positions with people with disabilities.

"This government has thought about us," says Angel Quevedo, a middle-aged man who has been paralyzed from the hips down since an accident 26 years ago.

Mr. Quevedo used to depend on his family and on odd jobs before the new law was passed. Now he works in a factory where he assembles furniture.

"We weren't taken into account before," he says. "Now I feel normal."
Correa's success in certain areas is undeniable. Yet some say that many of his policies were created with the primary goal of keeping himself in power.

"Resources have been invested in a politically smart way," says Sebastian Mantilla, a political analyst at the Latin American Center of Political Studies.

For example, at the beginning of this year's campaign, Correa announced a raise in the government's cash payments for the poor from $35 to $50 a month.
"Public policies and subsidies are needed to temporarily keep certain sectors content," he says, and "they also give him votes."

 There is another drawback to social spending, according to critics.

After defaulting on foreign bonds in 2008, Ecuador's main lender has been China, at high interest rates. Ecuador now owes China at least $3.4 billion.

Correa has also been highly criticized, at home and abroad, for using the judiciary to clamp down on opponents and protesters, as well as private media.

Yet, Sunday's election is likely to confirm that, much like his ally Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Correa's policies have been successful, at least in keeping him highly popular at home.

11:15 AM ET Will Benedict 'resign' or 'abdicate' as pope?

From CNN.com

When Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would step down at the end of the month, an interesting debate sprang up: Do popes resign or abdicate?

Read the pope's letter
In English, the pope said he is renouncing his role at the end of the month "because of advanced age."  In some other languages, he uses the word "vacating."

This is a rare situation; the last pope to resign was Gregory XII in 1415.

But it turns out there is some specific language to help guide the linguistics of it all.

"Should it happen that the Roman Pontiff resigns from his office, it is required for validity that the resignation be freely made and properly manifested, but it is not necessary that it be accepted by anyone," according to laws that guide the church.

So according to those rules, the correct word to describe the pope's actions would be resignation.
But many people have been calling the pope’s announcement an abdication. That word normally applies in a royal context, when the person who leaves their position has an immediate successor in place.
In this case, the cardinals will vote on a new pope.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Small Town Ecuadorian Life (in the Big City)

By Zo Fifield
The clouds hang, obscuring the top of the extinct Imbabura volcano’s 15,000-foot-high peak. Lago del San Pablo, a lake created when an ancient lava flow blocked the river Jatunyacu, glistens serenely to the south.
On the other side of the valley, the rocky volcán Cotacachi rests solemnly in the distance, sun dancing in bright patches along her green slopes. Local legend tells that the two volcanoes are lovers, and when there is snow on Cotacachi’s peak, it means that Imbabura has visited her in the night. The valley between them cradles Otavalo, a city about 34 miles north of Quito,
The streets are paved with gray bricks, laid like wide crosses in an interlocking pattern. Almost every building in town and the surrounding hillsides is painted some shade of off-white or soft yellow. The brownish-red tile roofs are the result of lingering Spanish architectural influence from the colonial era.
Lamps along the Calle Sucre are adorned with stained-glass birds and colorful metalwork sculptures. At night, you’ll often see lovers walking hand-in-hand beneath the hanging blankets of lights or embracing affectionately next to the illuminated palm trees in the Plaza Bolivar.
On Saturdays, the massive market overflows from the Plaza de Ponchos and colorful textiles and crafts fill tents along streets in a third of the city. Otavaleños are famous for their weavings, everything from blankets and bags to sweaters and gloves.
Still, escape feels just a block or two away—mostly because it is. Otavalo provides a unique living opportunity, combining the best of both worlds.

The true marvel here is the high-Andean farmland—a patchwork quilt of fields that tucks itself into every nook and cranny of the valley. The city life is present, but feels toned down because of the rich indigenous culture and easy lifestyle.
There’s no sense of overwhelming metropolis here.
If you dream of moving overseas and starting a farm but are not ready to give up the convenient amenities of city-living... or if you long to live a city life without the stress and noise of the hustle and bustle... the compromise exists here.
Fresh fruit and vegetables of all shapes, sizes, and colors can be found at the Mercado Copacabana in the eastern part of town. Spend $10 and you could easily find you have too much to carry, especially around the holidays when mangoes and oranges can run 15 for $1.
And, being that it’s close to the equator, the weather is fairly consistent year round. Daytime highs average in the mid-70s F with lows at night sometimes dipping in the 40s F.
Property prices vary depending on size and location. A comfortably-sized two-bedroom house in the city sells for around $35,000. Homes on the surrounding hillsides tend to be more expensive, usually around $50,000, but they are also bigger with up to a half acre of land.
There are many larger houses perched in the foothills between Otavalo and Cotacachi that have additional guest housing on the property. Many of these buildings were converted to B&Bs in response to the increase in tourism to the area. These properties have an asking price of around $100,000.
Editor’s note: Don’t worry if you couldn’t make it to the 2013 Fast-Track Ecuador Conference in Quito—we’re recording everything for you. You’ll be able to hear everything the conference attendees hear...see every presentation they see...and read all the material they read—from the comfort of your own home.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Tax Rebellion Begins

It is not just the "rich" who are leaving...........

February 7, 2013 by

Hello, I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. Mr. Obama, you have a big problem. A tax rebellion has started.

Phil Mickelson is one of the most famous athletes in the world. He is worth in the vicinity of $100 million. Last year, he made almost $50 million. Yet he doesn’t want to pay California’s high taxes.

Tiger Woods is far more famous and worth far more (more than $1 billion), yet he agrees with Mickelson. He recently admitted that he left California in 1996 for the exact same reason: high taxes.

In the same week, famed boxing promoter Bob Arum announced that superstar boxing legend Manny Pacquiao’s next fight will not be in held in America. The man who makes tens of millions of dollars per fight refuses to pay Barack Obama’s higher U.S. income taxes. He is considering Mexico City, Asia, or Dubai for his next fight. Can you imagine?

Then, Tina Turner went public. She is renouncing her U.S. citizenship to become a citizen of Switzerland, which just happens to have lower taxes than Obama’s America.

But these are just the rich celebrities courageous enough to go public. This is merely the tip of the iceberg. The rich are fleeing in droves. The Obama tax-and-spend Ponzi scheme is imploding.

What changed? The technology revolution has made it possible to do business from places where the taxes are lower (or nonexistent) and where the government treats people better. Obama had better learn this lesson fast, because this tax rebellion is spreading to millions of Americans with far smaller incomes or assets than Woods’, Mickelson’s or Pacquaio’s.

The signs are everywhere that a tax rebellion has begun. The latest U.S. census showed us that the States with the lowest taxes enjoyed the fastest population growth — States like Nevada, Texas, Florida and Arizona. Not surprisingly, the States losing the most population are all high-tax States like California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and, of course, Obama’s Illinois.

These States that Americans are running from are all governed just like Obama wants to govern the entire country. Soon, these same Americans running away from California, New York and Illinois will instead be running away from America.

Ask the co-founder of Facebook, who recently renounced his citizenship and left for Singapore (where the capital gains taxes are zero).

Ask big-time Democratic contributor Denise Rich, who recently renounced her citizenship to leave for Austria.

The trickle is turning into a torrent. Record numbers of wealthy Americans are giving up their citizenshipeight times more than before Obama became President.

Of course, we already know that only one year after the U.K. imposed a millionaire tax, two-thirds of the millionaires in England disappeared off the tax rolls.

We already know that millionaires are escaping France at a record pace because of high tax rates imposed by the new Obama-clone Socialist President of France. Even actors like Gerard Depardieu have been forced to abandon the country they love.

The famous actor isn’t alone. Requests by citizens to leave France are up by 500 percent.

But then came the coup de grace. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has just announced he is leaving France because of taxes. High taxes are even chasing away the former Presidents from their own countries.

High taxes work great in France. The nation’s labor minister announced just this week that France is “totally bankrupt.” His words.

 I understand all of this only too well. I’ve got my own “escape from taxes” story. I arrived in sunny Southern California in 1989. I fell in love. I thought I would never leave. I woke up every morning to walk on the beach and to watch dolphins swim from my deck

Unfortunately, during the next decade, California grew more and more desperate. Taxes were raised again and again. There were so many rules, regulations and lawyers that it became impossible to run a business in California. So I escaped to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is “America’s Monte Carlo.” It’s a place with no State income tax, business income tax, capital gains tax or inheritance tax, and it has the 16th lowest property taxes in America. It’s a place where the State constitution bans income taxes, limits the time politicians can meet and welcomes guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens. I call it heaven.

Mr. Obama, the secret is out. Taxes do nothing for productive people (like business owners or high-income earners). Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. It’s like burning your money in the fireplace. I’m a witness. I lived in New York for 27 years, then California for a decade. What did I get for all those taxes I paid? Nothing. But I did gain something fantastic: a much higher quality of life. The money I saved paid for home-school tutors for my oldest daughter. She was accepted to Harvard University. She’s now attending Oxford in the U.K. Would she be attending the two best universities in the world if I had sent her to public school? Lower taxes changed my life — and the lives of my family members.

Science magazine reported on a study of the unhappiest people in America. They all happen to live in high-tax States. The happiest people happen to live in low-tax States. Coincidence?

Maybe these citizens are happier because the economy grows so much faster in low-tax States. The Wall Street Journal reported on a study from the Kansas Policy Institute that shows that States without an income tax have significantly higher growth (59 percent versus 42 percent) over the past 10 years. They increased the number of jobs by 4.9 percent while jobs in the rest of the States declined by 2.6 percent.
Examples abound of Americans with high incomes and assets escaping from high-tax states. Between 2000 and 2010, 551,914 people left California just for one State, Texas, taking $14.3 billion in income.

Maryland has much higher taxes than Virginia. Between 2007 and 2010, more than 40,000 residents escaped from Maryland to become Virginia residents. They took $2.17 billion with them.

But New York is the poster child. The Tax Foundation reports that 612,520 people left New York and moved to Florida in the past decade, taking with them $19.7 billion in adjusted growth income.

Overall, 1.3 million residents escaped from New York in the past decade, taking with them $45.6 billion.
You know what they say about pigs: They get slaughtered. California is certainly a pig. Just like the PIIGS in Europe (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) all chased away their richest citizens and business owners. Now they have nothing left. Their tax bases are destroyed. Add France and the U.K. to the list. They’re all going down.

If we let big-government progressives have their way, California’s sad story and Europe’s tragic story will also be America’s sad story. Obama is killing the American dream. Mickelson was only vocalizing what millions of business owners in America are thinking right now.

Here’s the reality: The high-tech revolution has killed the progressive and socialist dream. You can’t tax us to death, simply because you don’t own us. We have iPhones, iPads, iPods, smartphones, laptops and satellite TV. We can do business from anywhere in the world: from a beach in Sydney to a mountaintop in Nepal to a forest in New Zealand to a luxury high rise in Hong Kong. It’s called freedom.

Sorry, Obama, your dream is about to collapse. Ask Mickelson or the former President of France or all those millionaires missing from England or, soon, half the business owners in America.

Tax-and-spend is DOA (dead on arrival). I’m Wayne Root for PersonalLiberty.com. See you next week. God bless capitalism, smaller government and lower taxes. God bless America.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Is Ecuador socialist?


 Since Rafael Correa was elected president of Ecuador in 2006, the country has become a study in new socialism.

It is new because it combines the social aspect of socialism while also relying on market forces.
Ecuador, like many developing countries, has suffered from the ill effects of “dependencia,” a system that keeps the nation in perpetual debt to its creditors. “Dependencia” is reminiscent of the situation sharecroppers faced in the American south where they owed more money to the company store than they could afford.

One bold action coming from Correa’s administration is the Yasuni project.

The Yasuni area is rich with oil and Correa is asking the international community to pay Ecuador for not exploiting the oil there.

 Previous administrations allowed oil exploitation in the Amazon jungle section of Ecuador with disastrous results caused by oil waste being dumped with little or no consideration for the wildlife there.

Correa is attempting a unique arrangement whereby Ecuador leaves the Yasuni region in its pristine state and is rewarded by the international community for doing so.

That approach is an example of the new socialism, a belief system that embraces global thinking and local stewardship.

Correa rejects the old system of development where the recipient of foreign aid is held hostage to creditors indefinitely.

It is an interesting time in Latin America right now. The left has risen from country to country over the last few years.

Although Correa is a socialist, he does not adhere to the traditional socialism that Hugo Chavez does in Venezuela.

This documentary does an excellent job of revealing the challenges faced by Ecuador and the bold experiment it has undertaken.

Ecuador is available to rent.

Murphy can be reached at: Lojano@comcast.net

Is Russia Becoming a Theocracy?


This weekend the Russian Orthodox Church held its Bishops Council at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.
In his speech to the assembly, president Putin said that, of course, Russia is not a theocracy but:
“We are a secular state of course, and cannot allow state life and church life to merge” he continued, “but at the same time, we must avoid too, a vulgar and primitive interpretation of what being secular means.
“Traditional values, believers’ religious feelings, and people’s rights, freedoms, and dignity must all be protected by both the power of public opinion and the power of the law,” Putin said.

He also said that the Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional religions of Russia must be involved in “important areas such as supporting families and mothers, raising and educating children, youth policy, resolving the many social problems we still face, and strengthening patriotic spirit in the Armed Forces.”
The social conservatism inherent in having the Church play a greater role in family life (with “fathers” notably absent from the equation), schooling and, somewhat counter-intuitively perhaps, the war machine, is nothing new. But, while the Russian state has actively promoted the Church since the early Yeltsin years, perhaps the most interesting aspect of the statement was the legal element.

Putin’s statement confirmed that some of the most bizarre parts of the prosecution’s case against members of Pussy Riot — namely that their actions contravened medieval church law — may not have been the surreal aberration they seemed at the time.

In fact, the following day, Patriarch Kirill also spoke in favor of giving legal weight to religious doctrines.
Russian news sources reported that Kirill “backed the idea of criminal prosecution for blasphemy similar the Pussy Riot’s punk performance in Christ the Savior Cathedral”; he was quoted as saying that
“The law must protect not only symbols of secular importance, but also objects with sacred meaning for the believers and guard their religious feelings from insults.”

The Russian Orthodox Church has been in the news these days. Last weekend, the Financial Times published a long profile of Father Tikhon Shevkunov, who is said to be Putin’s personal confessor; while the latest issue of the Economist reviews a new history of religion after the fall of communism.

The FT noted the paradox that, while “only a small minority of Russians attend church regularly” the ROC has become one of  the country’s most trusted institutions. Geraldine Fegan, author of the book reviewed in the Economist, was quoted as saying that “Putin wants to capitalise on Orthodoxy’s image of permanence, even as his own legitimacy crumbles.”

Certainly, there is an intimate relationship between the church, the Kremlin and big money. After all, Yeltsin financed the church, in part by granting it the right to import and sell tax free cigarettes) while the most avid sponsors of new houses of worship over the past 20 years have been oligarchs. And many senior members of the church hierarchy have themselves become quasi-oligarchs, driving expensive supercars, wearing Swiss watches and living in multimillion dollar apartments. Today, it has become very fashionable among the megarich to have their own personal confessors — the latest badge of elite status.

However, while we know that the church, state and the army have refashioned the old tsarist three-legged stool, it is much harder to see which of them wields the most power in the equation.
In short, is Putin using the church, or is the church using Putin?

As the embrace between them becomes ever closer, the key power struggle to come may no longer be between the Kremlin and the liberals, but rather Putin and his Patriarchate.