Ecuador: Constitutional Court says ‘no’ to referendum on Correa’s amendments

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Constitutional Court says ‘no’ to referendum on Correa’s amendments; Opposition reacts to Constitutional Court decision; Animal care set to improve in Cuenca

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Constitutional Court says ‘no’ to referendum on Correa’s amendments

On 31st October the Ecuadorian Constitutional Court announced that the fate of the proposed amendments to the nation’s constitution, put forward by President Rafael Correa’s PAIS Alliance (Alianza PAIS- AP), would be decided by politicians in the National Assembly and not by public vote as opposition parties had demanded.

The amendments have been fiercely debated in the political sphere over recent months, mainly due to the fact that one of the 18 proposed constitutional reforms would allow for indefinite re-election to public office. This change would permit current President Rafael Correa, currently in his third and last constitutionally-permitted presidential term, to run for office once again in the 2017 elections.

Other amendments included in the proposal would produce changes in the constitutional role of the Armed Forces, as well as those of the General State Comptroller’s Office. The minimum age for a presidential candidate is also hoped to be lowered from 35 to 30.

Correa’s AP first proposed the amendments in May of this year, and subsequently a request for the proposal to be processed was submitted in June to the Constitutional Court.

Those opposed to the reform for indefinite re-election have repeatedly called for a public referendum to allow the Ecuadorian populace to decide on the matter. They have claimed that the change will mean “Rafael Correa eternally in power”. According to a recent opinion poll, the majority of the nation has chosen to side with the opposition, with 73% of a sample of 2,600 saying that they would be in favour of a public vote on the issue.

President of the Constitutional Court Patricio Pazmiño made the announcement on the decision taken by  the juridical body, formed of nine magistrates, following two days of analysis and debate in the south-western coastal city of Guayaquil.

The Court found the proposal to be lawful, declaring that the changes would not affect the structure of the state, would not restrict rights, and would not affect the process by which constitutional changes are made.

Gabriela Rivadeneira, President of the National Assembly and member of AP, assured that the process would now be “handled with responsibility” in the National Assembly, and stated that she hoped that a special committee would soon be established within the Assembly to push the matter forward.

President Correa referred to the decision in his weekly radio and television broadcast, Enlace Ciudadano (Community Link). He stated that he believed two thirds of the Parliament would approve the amendments, given that his party holds the majority in the National Assembly.

He also took the opportunity to rip a copy of the newspaper La Hora in half, following the periodicals reporting of the Constitutional Court’s decision under the title ‘They reject popular vote’.

Opposition reacts to Constitutional Court decision

Guillermo Lasso, ex-presidential candidate and leader of the Creating Opportunities (Creando Oportunidades- CREO) party, promised that he would continue to push for a public referendum on the constitutional reforms proposed by President Rafael Correa, despite the Constitutional Court’s judgement last week that a public vote would not be required.

In a conference given at Guayaquil’s Hilton Colón Hotel, Lasso claimed that, “The Constitutional Court has not acted independently, it has acted against constitutional rights and against the will of the majority of Ecuadorians”.

He insisted that he would start an initiative to collect enough signatures to bring about a nationwide referendum on the subject of the amendments that, amongst other changes, would allow for indefinite re-election to public office. He stated that he would go to the National Electoral Council as a matter of great importance to begin this process.

He said, “We are going to make ourselves known in this battle, in this democratic fight, to preserve and maintain the will of the people”.

Animal care set to improve in Cuenca

It is estimated that the city of Cuenca is home to 60,000 stray dogs, an ever-increasing figure. Alongside the city’s 60 veterinary surgeries, four animal shelters operate that work with these animals- rescuing, re-homing and sterilising animals for a low charge or for free.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that a metropolitan area such as Cuenca, with a population of 505,000, should have no more than 50,000 animals held as pets under responsible care. Clearly there is a pressing issue surrounding the homeless canines on Cuenca’s streets.

Extra measures are set to be put in place to try and alleviate this problem.

An ambulance has been donated to the city council by a local hospital, which will be used as a mobile operating theatre for the sterilisation of dogs in rural areas.

Efforts of this type are further stimulated through fundraising on social media by organisations such as Animal Rescue Cuenca (Animal Rescate Cuenca).

As of September, new local bye-laws have been adopted to ensure that companies selling animals have the required license, have an adequate space in which to hold animals, and that they do not separate young animals from their mothers too early. All those found to be in violation of these requirements, or found to be keeping animals in abusive circumstances will be fined.