U.S. dollar becomes Ecuador's currency
QUITO, Ecuador -- (AFP) -- Ecuador bade farewell Sunday to its
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
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,''
``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
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
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
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