The Miami Herald
September 11, 2000

U.S. dollar becomes Ecuador's currency

 QUITO, Ecuador -- (AFP) -- Ecuador bade farewell Sunday to its 116-year-old
 currency, when the sucre was replaced by the U.S. dollar as the sole legal

 Central Bank president Jose Luis Ycaza predicted the change would usher in an
 era of ``stability, confidence and economic recovery.''

 But a hefty 76 percent of the public opposes the dollarization backed by
 President Gustavo Noboa to try to rein in runaway inflation, encourage investment
 and reverse capital flight, the polling firm Cedatos reported last week.

 In a symbolic farewell ceremony, locals carried a replica of their national coin to a
 Quito graveyard on Saturday, while about 100 intellectuals formed a funeral
 cortege outside Central Bank headquarters in the historic center of the capital.

 One of those taking part in the symbolic burial included a Quito-based
 psychologist, identifying himself as ``Hernan,'' who said he was horrified at having
 to replace his sucres with dollars.

 ``With the invasion of the dollar, we have become a U.S. colony,'' he complained.
 ``We are losing our national values.''

 Others across the country meanwhile rushed to get rid of their last sucres.

 While Ecuadorans can exchange remaining sucres at Central Bank exchange
 locations through March 9, 2001, a practical problem quickly emerged: the lack of
 enough coins denominated in cents.

 The Ecuadoran Central Bank put in an order with Mexican and Canadian mints.

 But the 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50-cent coins -- which read ``Republic of Ecuador'' in
 Spanish and include images of national heroes -- have just begun to circulate.

 At bus stops and cash registers, that has meant a bit of inconvenience and
 grumbling from a population that was already distressed over the loss of a piece
 of its national identity.

 The beleaguered national currency was abandoned at the stroke of midnight in
 favor of the greenback, as part of an ambitious IMF-backed reform also aimed at
 streamlining Ecuador's financial system and boosting its floundering economy.

 Noboa maintained the pressure for dollarization to be brought in, despite the
 ousting in January of his predecessor Jamil Mahuad -- who spearheaded the
 dollarization campaign. Mahuad was sent packing in an indigenous-led coup that
 was then backed by part of the armed forces.

 Ecuador is banking on the changeover helping to solve its persistent economic
 woes, after inflation soared to 197 percent in 1999.

 Analysts say dollarization could encourage Ecuador's wealthy to bring back the
 roughly $2 billion they took out of the country in 1999.

 Panama, in Central America, uses the U.S. dollar in everyday business
 transactions, but has never removed the local currency, the balboa, from