Owners of Cuenca’s municipal buses resumed service of the Baños-to-Ricaurte 100 route Friday, claiming that the city had failed to complete a transportation integration plan that it promised four months ago. The chamber also says that the city owes bus owners hundreds of thousands of dollars in subsidies and that it has failed to fulfill other promises as well.
The mayor’s office says the resumption of the route is unauthorized and summoned the Cuenca Chamber of Transport (CTC), which represents bus owners, to a series of weekend meetings.
According to the chamber, it agreed verbally to discontinue the 100 route in September when the tram began commercial service, with the promise that the city would present its bus and tram integration plan within 45 days. “The city has not met its obligation and we have decided, based on the demand of bus passengers in Baños and Ricaurte to resume the service,” says Manolo Solís, CTC president. “We negotiated in good faith but the city did not and because the agreement was not put in writing we are forced to defend our interests.”
Solís says the 100 route is the most profitable in the system, requiring the service of 30 buses. “Because of loss of revenue due to the pandemic and the increase in diesel fuel costs, we can no longer afford to leave this route vacant,” he says. “We must reestablish it to serve or customers and to provide income to our members.”
In addition to owing bus companies subsidy money, Solís said the city has failed to act on a University of Cuenca recommendation that bus fare be increased to 35 cents. “The municipality has acknowledged that this is the legitimate fare but has refused to discuss it for two years.”
Iván Carvallo, advisor to the mayor’s office, said that talks are underway to resolve the dispute. “There are unresolved issues that must be worked out,” he said. He added that although the resumption of the old route 100, which competes directly with the tram will not be allowed to continue, the city is considering a new 100 route connecting Baños and Ricaurte. “The reviews for this route are already underway,” he said.
Ecuador and Peru join forces to patrol the border
Ecuador Defense Minister Oswaldo Jarrín reported Friday that military presence on the Peruvian border is being strengthened to stop what he says is an increasing number of illegal border crossings, some involving the transport of firearms. The operations is being conducted in coordination with the Peruvian military which assigned personnel to more than 20 border crossing points on Monday and Tuesday. In addition to stopping cross-border arms transport, Jarrín said there has been an increase in drug transfers and illegal crossings by Venezuelan refugees.
The defense ministry said it is assigning 20 Hammer tactical vehicles to patrol the informal and illegal border crossings, many intended for use by indigenous communities that are increasingly being used by smugglers and refugees moving between Ecuador and Peru.
Enforcement of driving restrictions, illegal gatherings steps up
Cuenca’s mayor’s office announced Friday that increased road patrols are being deployed to enforce the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. prohibition on driving private vehicles. “The restriction has been in place for months but enforcement has been relaxed recently,” a statement said. “This is ending this weekend as transit police will monitor an increased number of road checks.” Those on the road after 11 p.m. will be fined $100, the statement continued.
The statement also said that patrols by National Police and Citizen Guard are being increased to stop large gatherings, most of which involve public drinking. More than a dozen gatherings were broken up Thursday and Friday night and 45 fines were issued for public drinking and failure to wear a face covering, according to a police report.
Environmental group files suit against former Correa officials
The Yasunidos Collective is suing former members of the National Election Council for the council’s rejection of a 2014 referendum that would have banned oil drilling in the Yasuni National Park. In the suit, the Yasunidos claim the CNE fraudulently threw out 69 percent of the signatures collected to put the question to a public vote. The group says that the CNE members were appointed by then-president Rafael Correa who favored oil production in the previously protected Amazon park and opposed the referendum. In their filing at the attorney general’s office, the Yasunidos delivered all signatures collected and proof that the vast majority were authentic and legal.