Azuay governor says police are often slow to respond to local crime but says changes are coming

Jun 10, 2024 | 0 comments

In his second press conference in two days, Azuay Province Governor Santiago Malo said Friday he is “listening closely” to the concerns of Cuenca citizens about crime in the city and acknowledged that police are often slow to respond to calls.

Azuay Province Governor Santiago Malo

His comments followed social media criticism of a Thursday press conference in which he and a national police commander emphasized Cuenca’s low crime rate. On Thursday, Malo also said that two murders the previous weekend were the result of personal conflicts between local criminals and two homeless men.

Cuenca Mayor Cristian Zamora also criticized Malo’s comments as being “insensitive and dismissive of serious problems.”

“I recognize how my statements were misinterpreted, and I apologize for the confusion,” Malo said. “I also recognize that there is much more to be done in the fight against insecurity in regard to official response. It is not easy to restructure an old law enforcement apparatus, but the government is making changes to upgrade it. We are replacing obsolete practices and making law enforcement more agile.” He added that funds from the recent VAT increase are dedicated to improving law enforcement.

Malo agreed that his remarks about the two murders were insensitive. “My intention was to point out that these unfortunate deaths were not connected to the criminal gang violence occurring in coastal communities,” he said. “These are terrible crimes and investigations are underway to assure that justice is done.”

Pablo Guachamín, Azuay police commander, also “clarified” statements he made Thursday when he cited statistics showing Cuenca as having one of the lowest murder and violent crime rates in Latin America. “Any crime is one crime too many and, as the governor said, we are upgrading our practices to be more efficient.”

Guachamín added that it is important to put criminal activity into perspective. “Based on the data, Cuenca continues to be a very safe city and criminal reports through the first five months of 2024 show this continues to be true. Despite what some claim on social media, we are not suffering from the gang violence that is prevalent in the coastal provinces.”

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