Following the lead of the national Emergency Operations Committee, the Cuenca COE has authorized 100 percent capacity for municipal buses and the tram. On September 29, the national COE authorized inter- and interprovicial buses to operate at full capacity.
In its statement, local authorities said the Covid-19 no longer poses the public health threat that it did earlier in the pandemic. “Restoration of full ridership is one of the first steps to return Cuenca to pre-pandemic conditions and we expect to reduce other restrictions before the end of the year,” the statement read.
An unnamed member of the Cuenca Guards said that there has been little attempt to enforce the 75 percent capacity ridership limits in recent weeks. “We all know the pandemic is going away and because of low ridership we have been instructed to only enforce the worst cases of over-crowding.”
According to the Cuenca Chamber of Transport, the organization representing bus companies, ridership for the municipal system is only 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The Chamber is demanding that the city provide a larger subsidy to cover financial losses resulting from the pandemic and recent increases in fuel costs.
Government to pardon 2,000 prisoners
The Interior Ministry announced Friday that it will grant pardons to 2,000 prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes and repatriate an unknown number of foreign prisoners. The action follows last week’s riot at the Guayaquil Litoral Penitentiary that claimed 119 inmate lives and left 83 injured.
“We have a situation of over-crowding in our prisons and releasing prisoners who do not pose a threat to the population is one measure we can take immediately to reduce tensions,” Interior Minister Alexandra Vela said during a press conference. “We are 62 percent over-capacity in Guayaquil and acknowledge that this was a factor in the violence. She added that those being released include women, people with disabilities, the terminally ill and the elderly.
Among other measures Vela announced in the aftermath of the riot was the immediate repair of video cameras and cell phone jamming devices that had been disabled by prisoners, the redistribution of prisoners in the cell blocks and a review of prison security procedures.
She said that order had been restored at the prison and that a Saturday incident in which several prisoners fired guns from the prison roof was isolated. “Those responsible for this action have been placed in a secure area of the prison, segregated from other inmates.”
Quito okays 35-cent bus fare, with conditions
Fifteen percent of Quito’s public buses are already charging the 35-cent fare authorized in July by the Municipal Council and the rest of the city fleet is expected to increase fares from 30 cents by the end of the year. Under rules passed by the council, buses must install GPS tracking devices, cameras and emergency buttons to charge the 35-cent fare.
The Quito bus fleet includes 3,042 units, of which already 444 comply with new rules.
Expat arrested for killing a duck
A foreign resident identified as Robert W. was taken into custody Sunday near Parque Paraiso and charged with animal abuse for killing a duck. According to police, the man, who is from the U.S. state of Indiana, was found roasting the duck over a fire in a wooded area near the park.
Witnesses said the man hid behind a bush to ambush the duck, which was described as being “brown and white and plump.” The cause of the duck’s death was listed as a “wringing of the neck.” During the arrest, police confiscated a knife and bottle of “China sauce” from the suspect.