In a press conference and radio interviews Wednesday, Azuay Province Governor Matías Abad criticized Mayor Pedro Palacios and other city officials for exaggerating the crime rate in Cuenca. Specifically, Abad said that videos promoting Thursday’s anti-crime march in the historic district include false information that created “unneeded hysteria.”
“There are places in Ecuador where crime is a crisis but Cuenca is not one of those places,” Abad said. “Statements by the mayor yesterday about the number of murders and other crimes was factually incorrect and leads to unnecessary fear among the citizens. The statistics are to available to everyone, including the mayor, so there is no need to use false information. I believe it is the job of public officials to create an atmosphere of calm, not one of fear.”
Abad called Palacios’ public statement that murders had been committed at a gold mine near Pucará irresponsible. “There were early unsubstantiated statements Monday that there were murders but these were proven to be false. When all victims in that attack were accounted for Monday night, the police issued a statement that no one had died. I find it strange the mayor was not aware of this.”
Abad added: “The situation at Pucará is, indeed, very serious but it is curious that the mayor would mention a crime committed more than 100 kilometers from Cuenca, far outside of cantonal limits.”
On several recent occasions, including Tuesday, Palacios has demanded the government assign more police personnel to the municipality, saying crimes was “rising rapidly” in the canton.
District Police Commander Fausto Salinas presented statistics at the press conference showing that crime has dropped in most categories since 2018. “Cuenca is one of the safest cities in the country and nothing has changed in this regard. I urge officials in Cuenca to sit down with the police command to review the record so they have a better understanding of the situation.”
Salinas added that there has been one hit-man style murder, similar to those committed in Guayaquil and Manta, in Cuenca this year. Both the victim and the alleged murderer were from Guayaquil, he said.
In two radio interviews, Abad said that social media is responsible for the perception that the amount of crime is increasing. “Look at the Facebook pages and you will see post after post complaining about crime and saying they are afraid to go outside their homes. Many of these have photos and videos that are viewed hundreds and thousands of times, showing crimes taken on security cameras,” he said. “Yes, there are crimes here and any crime is one too many, but the endless repetition of the same images does not present an accurate picture of the general situation.”
Abad also said it was unfair for Palacios to require city employees to participate in Thursday march. “Obviously, he wants to have a good showing,” Abad said.