As more than 300 mayors, prefects and governors gathered in Quito Monday to discuss ways to fight crime, an angry Guayaquil Mayor Cynthia Viteri attacked the government of President Guillermo Lasso for not paying its bills. Waving a hand-written sign claiming Guayaquil is owed $60 million, Viteri said the national government is acting in bad faith asking local governments to help fight crime while it doesn’t pay cities the money it needs to provide basic services.
Viteri also blamed the government for not doing enough to stop murders in Guayaquil, which suffers the highest murder rate in the country.
“If we have been summoned to Quito for the government to tell us what all citizens already know, then this meeting is useless,” she said. “For years, my city has provided the National Police and army with food, lodging and other supplies because Quito says it doesn’t have the funds. Where is the money collected in our community that, by law, the government owes us? And where are the 15,000 security cameras they promised us. Where are the police they promised to protect the shopping malls, restaurants, offices and schools?”
Viteri added: “Guayaquil is not alone in this dilemma. Every city in the country is owed money from Quito and most of us are struggling to take care of our residents.”
Several mayors agreed with Viteri before the meeting began at the Eloy Alfaro Military College in Quito, but said they wanted to keep the focus on rising crime rates. “Yes, she is right about the debt the government owes us and this problem must be settled,” said Jama Mayor Robert Castro. “We cannot, however, let this interfere with fighting the crime wave affecting coastal communities and other areas of Ecuador. I am here to listen to the government plans to improve law enforcement and to fight the drug gangs that are disrupting our lives. It is the responsibility of the central government to provide this protection and we will help if they have a coherent plan of attack.”
At the start of the noon meeting, Government Minister Francisco Jiménez claimed the “war against crime” is a shared responsibility of both the national and local governments. “We must have coordination in this fight and we must have close cooperation,” he said. “We must commit ourselves to leave our differences behind so we can obtain the results necessary to guarantee citizen security.”
During a break in the meeting, Viteri claimed the meeting, so far, has been “an extended coffee break.”