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As calm returns to Cuenca and other cities, police and soldiers move to clear highways

Ecuador’s interior ministry says it is mobilizing tens-of-thousands of national police and army troops to clear roadblocks that have paralyzed travel in much of the country. Manned by campesino and indigenous groups protesting economic measures announced last week by President Lenin Moreno, roadblocks have been set up in 14 of the country’s 24 provinces.

Cuenca residents clean up streets from last week’s protests.

Although protests in major cities, including Cuenca, have ended — at least for now — and most urban transportation has been restored, it was unclear as of early Monday when inter-provincial bus service would resume.

Also affected by the road closures were shipments of food, fuel and other goods around the country. The interior ministry said it was planning a military escort service, if necessary, to guarantee that delivery vehicles carrying critical supplies could pass through the roadblocks.

Ecuador’s ECU 911 service is maintaining a list of road closures it says is updated on a continuing basis.

On Sunday, Moreno proposed meetings with protesters blocking highways but his overture was rejected. “We refuse to engage in any discussions until all of the government’s labor and fuel changes have been rescinded,” said Leonidas Iza, president of the Indigenous and Peasant Movement of Cotopaxi who is leading a march on Quito. Some protesting groups are demanding an end to mining operations as well.

Residents of Saraguro occupy a roadblock that prevents access between Cuenca and Loja. (El Comercio)

Although the national strike by taxi and bus unions was called off on Friday, there was confusion over the weekend about how much fares would be allowed to increase. In Guayaquil, some urban buses had hiked prices by 10 cents but city officials said the increase was illegal. In Cuenca, where fares are paid by magnetic card, not cash, the mayor’s office said that any fare increase is restricted by an agreement the previous city government made in 2018 with bus companies.

The federal government said urban bus fares would be allowed to rise five to 10 cents but the decision was up to municipalities.

On Saturday and Sunday, commercial and social life in Cuenca returned to normal as there was no recurrence of the Thursday and Friday student protests. Groups from the University of Cuenca and the University of Azuay carried out clean-up projects in several locations in the historic district. Although some vandalism resulted from last week’s protests, city officials said it was relatively minor, unlike the theft and destruction of property that occurred in Guayaquil, Riobamba and Quito.

After announcing Saturday that elementary and high school classes would resume Monday, the Ministry of Education did an about-face Sunday night, saying schools would remain closed.

Ecuador’s Defense Minister said that police and military troops will be restrained but firm as they to remove roadblocks. “We will do everything possible to avoid violence but warn protesters not to provoke the troops,” Oswaldo Jarrín said Sunday. “They have a job to do, which is to enforce the law.”

Jarrín cited the violence that erupted at a roadblock in Saraguro in 2015 as military troops moved against anti-government protesters. “I hope there is not a repeat of that incident,” he said. The clash left several troops and protesters injured and resulted in a number of arrests.

Most Cuenca mercados were adequately stocked with produce and meat over the weekend but some shelves at the city’s supermarkets, including Supermaxi, were empty. Supermaxi issued an apology, saying that the lack of vegetables, fruit and meat was the result of exceptionally heavy shopping traffic as well as difficulties encountered by delivery trucks.

37 thoughts on “As calm returns to Cuenca and other cities, police and soldiers move to clear highways

    1. You do not understand that people are suffering. But we are expats with lots of money. What do we care about others?

    2. Yes. After all it is the disenfranchised who suffer. But then, it appears you have no empathy for them.You should offer the USA that advice every time the Govt. shuts down. ‘Defeat the leaders with an iron fist’, great rallying call.for neo liberals.

    3. Ahh Lars. You are full of energy today. You must have finished reading your favorite book, “MEIN KAMPF”.

    4. Hopefully when this revolution is over, they’ll continue the tried and true tradition of throwing out foreigners who supported the dictatorship.

  1. It would be a real help to expats to let us know if things like banks and grocery stores are open. Thank you.

    1. Depends on the city. The situation is very fluid. Wouldn’t be a bad idea to have plenty of cash on hand.

  2. Does anyone know if the road from Guayaquil to Cuenca is open? I fly back tomorrow into GYE and was wondering how I would get back to Cuenca.

    1. There isn’t any public transportation from GYE to Cuenca. If you have a private vehicle, you might be able to find a roundabout way to get there but the main road is closed.

  3. Several people died from the gas and flames of the molotov cocktails. This is NOT considered a peaceful demonstration if people are getting burned by the flammable liquid and dying. An iron fist is necessary if the riots are out of control and harming innocent people. I absolutely have no empathy for protesters that are burning people.
    I need to set the record straight and apologize for posting inaccurate information. I was not intentionally trying to deceive the readers.

    It was verified and the correct information is that robber was doused with gas and died during a robbery that took place around the same time of the protests. Was it connected to the protest. Not sure?

    This story developed and changed from there but not to be unscrupulous or disingenuous but because the locals genuinely are afraid of the protests saying that this time the protests are a lot more dangerous than in previous years and are creating more damage to both the people and property.

    This story was told because several people wanted to take the bus and were told it was too dangerous out there and that the protestors were using molotov cocktails. They wanted to scare the travellers into NOT travelling. This was done to protect the travellers and not out of malice.

    So it appears as though the inaccuracy or embellishment was developed not because people were trying to create problems or be deceitful but trying to avoid problems.

    Did the people who told this story embellish it. Yes they probably did. But did they do it out of ill will NO; they truly did it out of fear.

    There were a few people that got belligerent and hostile when they responded. These people need to get a grip on life and get their emotions under control.
    Was name calling necessary NO
    Was it necessary to call me a liar or pathetic NO
    Was it necessary to be nasty and cruel NO
    Did the responses need to escalate to abusiveness NO

    1. But when you double the fuel bill overnight that can have severe consequences too. Peaceful demonstrations are nice but as you notice, the USA didn’t do that in the Gulf wars.

    2. Do you ever back up anything you write, or do you just make stuff up as Faulkner claims you do? Who are these “several people” that have died?

      1. Not in the news. If a reporter has not reported yet how exactly do you want me to prove it to you. If you need proof go talk to the locals; they will tell you lots of things you do not hear on the internet.

      2. Asking someone for proof of what a bus driver, taxi, local, neighbour and friend are saying is rather idiotic. If you constantly question every sentence when having a discussion at a cafe
        and undermine them in the process you must annoy the heck out of people.

        1. Idiotic is believing that someone could be killed in 2019 and the only one who knows about it is a bus driver, taxi, local neighbor and friend. Nothing happens in a country this small without it ending up on Twitter, Facebook, a local news outlet, YouTube, something.

          What annoys the heck out of people is listening to you insist that what you heard from someone qualifies as reality.

        2. What a pathetic reply. You speak in generalities and supply nothing more than anecdotal evidence to support them. When you are asked for that support, all you can do is deflect by pointing your misguided finger at me.

          I understand that intellectual rigor annoys you because it doesn’t allow your wishes to be the father of your thoughts. However, if you are going to have a debate with intelligent people, you first must learn, then follow, the rules of epistemology, logic and debate.

        3. This second information seems to be the only way to like to communicate. This not the first time, from your lofty perch, you have blabbed. We live in Ecuador, and as residents of choice, we understand the preferential hierarchy, and we accept the inconveniences that go with it. Please do not fabricate news. Please tell us how did you come upon these “locals” who fed you this disinformation?

    3. You’re making stuff up again.

      You’re also advocating that the government oppress its own people again.

      1. There are two different worlds here in Ecuador.
        One world where people spend hours on the internet getting news on Trump and from the reporters and newsmedia and fake news whether they be left wing or right.

        Then there is another type of world here in Ecuador. That is the world where the locals talk to their neighbours, talk to people in restaurants, and bars and stores and locals that talk to taxi drivers and bus drivers. When the stories are the same from most people the likelihood that there is some accuracy to it is very good.

        So if you want proof I suggest you get out your internet bubble and talk to the locals.

        1. Proof of what? You’re telling me that talking to my neighbors here in my town will provide me with more information about what’s happening on the other side of the country than what I get on the internet? Where would my neighbors have gotten that information? The internet maybe? I sure won’t get it from the television because they’re boycotting any reporting other than a repeating loop of looter yesterday in Guayaquil.

          Several people did not die from the “gas and flames of Molotov cocktails”. That is a flat out lie and if you had any decency you would admit it. Two people have died so far, both after being hit in the head by teargas canisters fired by security forces. Nobody is reporting Molotov cocktails being used anywhere. First you make up a lie, then you use that lie to justify the government using an “iron fist” to take down the protestors. You’re a shameless propagandist. You support government oppression of people exercising their constitutional right to protest and to make it seem like you aren’t really a proto-fascist, you make up a lie about people being killed by Molotov cocktails. Have you left any decency whatsoever? Shame on you.

          [UPDATE: by the time I finished this comment, another person has been reported dead, a man who was run over yesterday by a driver who was angry the road was being blocked. For the record, still not a single report of Molotov cocktails anywhere in the country]

        2. We live outside Cuenca, surrounded by Small family agricultural plots. And there is nary a whisper of your FAKE NEW! Given your “love affair: with all things Trump, you must be familiar with Fake News!

      2. I am not suggesting that the government oppress their people, You are very good and twisting words and not understanding what people are saying. I am suggesting that if the protestors are harming innocent people they should be removed and charged.

        1. “An iron fist is necessary”

          No, you’re not “suggesting” it, you’re explicitly calling for it. If the government is harming innocent protestors, what should happen? [don’t worry, we know you’ll never answer]

  4. Not sure what calm they’re referring to. All interprovincial transport is pretty much shut down. Quito is virtually at a standstill. The presidential palace is surrounded with concertina wire and tanks. I realize that CHL doesn’t have reporters on the ground, but maybe try sourcing your info from more than the corporate media that has been running flack for Moreno for the past two years. They keep telling us the transportation strike is over, yet I keep seeing videos posted hourly of taxis and buses blocking all the major thoroughfares. They tell us calm has been restored, yet 50 soldiers were just taken hostage by indigenous groups and there are confrontations taking place throughout the country.

    1. You are aware of 50 soldiers taken hostage yet you are not aware of the protestors using molotov cocktails full of flammable liquid that is lit on fire. Sound to me like you have selective hearing.

  5. Trans Esmeraldas was operating on Sunday to and from Quito and Machala but not to Guayaquil. The bus station informed us that it was too dangerous to go to Guayaquil. There was a bus on the way to Guayaquil and the protestors threw some molotov cocktails at the buses so the bus turned back.

    Please do not respond by asking me for proof. If you have this insatiable desire for proof and this unreasonable desire to undermine someone then you go to the bus station and question their motives and ask them for proof yourself.

  6. I paid a visit to Super Maxi and the 10 de Agosto market this morning they both seem to be fully stocked. At least the food is getting through.

  7. I biked from Cuenca to just before Tarqui today to get to the barn that houses my horse. The 18 bus shut down at 11 am and 6 were lined up near Zhucay because of the road block. This is no ordinary road block. 4 trees of 10″ plus diameter have been wedged into the guardrails in two places with the demonstrators in between them. No one was allowed to pass, not even on foot. A local explained how I could pass around by following the creek toward Tutupali and cutting back over a foot bridge. I did so and rode the rest of the way to the barn. On the way back at 1pm, I met road blocks every 100 yards…..large boulders, burning trees, trees and boulders. I also passed over 50 indigenous people walking (some as far as Cuenca). A truck kept transporting loads of young men armed with 6ft long sticks (small trees). They went to join their friends in Zhucay. As I arrived at Zhucay, I was confronted by demonstrators that said I would have to pay to pass. I joked with them about the $5 quoted. I told the man I expected to be taken to Cuenca for THAT price. He sent me to the next barricade where a young girl showed me her threatening stick. I greeted her and asked who was in charge. A Chola lady approached with a large cauldron and asked for money. The crowd had agreed that the “gringita” could pass for $2.50. When I opened my first coin purse, 3 cents fell out. They all laughed. I laughed also and said I had another. I held my bills inside and dumped out the requisite $2.50. They all smiled, a man grabbed my bike, hoisted it over the trees, and sent me on my way.
    I continued to meet road blocks in Nero, Grand Aki, and Control Sur. I circumvented them, but the individuals guarding them were preoccupied by motorcyclist trying to pass. These strikes hurt the common people. The barn’s hay supply is held up in a Quito barricade. This will continue through the week, but the president needs to CLEAR the road blocks on the highways NOW.

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