Following the euphoria of Sunday’s victory, Cuenca mayor-elect Marcelo Cabrera faced political reality on Monday.
Unlike out-going mayor, Paúl Granda, Cabrera will not have majority support on the cantonal council. Although the final recount of the vote continues, it appears that PAIS, Granda’s and President Rafael Correa’s party, will hold a majority on the council. “We will work through cooperation to meet our objectives,” Cabrera said. “We have done this before and know we can do it again.”
An advantage that Cabrera enjoys, due to his center left political legacy, is that he is considered a “friend” of Correa and the Quito government. Correa said yesterday that he considers Cabrera a “partner” of the government despite the fact that he is not a member of PAIS.
This will be Cabrera’s second term as mayor. He held the post from 2005 until 2009, when he was narrowly defeated by Granda.
The most pressing questions facing Cabrera at a Monday press conference concerned the status of Cuenca’s light rail system, Tranvia de los Cuatros Rios. The mayor-elect acknowledged that the “train has left the station” and said it is part of his master transportation plan. “What we will do is review the entire project, the financial arrangements, the construction plan and the effect it will have on neighborhoods,” he said. “I will ask the current administration for technical studies and contracts, and have local and national experts to evaluate them.”
Cabrera restated his opinion that the tranvia will have a smaller impact on Cuenca’s overall transportation plan that what has been suggested by the Granda administration. “We think it will carry about 20% of the transport users, and during the review process we will look at ways to increase the ridership,” Cabrera said. “It is an important part of the overall plan and we need to make it as effective as possible.”
Regarding the renovation of San Francsico Plaza in the historic district, he said the project needed more participation from the merchants affected by it but said the project would continue. Many of the vendors complained that their opinions were not considered in the original project plan. In particular, they objected to being relocated underground, part of Granda administration’s final plan. Funding for the plaza project has been approved, including a loan from the federal government.
Cabrera said he woud push hard for the ring road project he advocated in his campaign. The limited access roadway would cost an estimated $300 million but, according to Cabrera, will reduce traffic in the central city. “The road will be one of our priorities,” he said. “It fits very well with the national government’s 2050 infrastructure plan.”
On the question of the people he will appoint to his administration, Cabrera said he is taking his time to make decisions. “First, I need to evaluate the personel who are already in the government.” He campaigned on a promise to reduce the size of government but said this will be a process that will take several months to achieve.
Photo caption: Cabrera addresses supporters Sunday night.