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Calm returns to Cuenca’s El Centro but more protests are expected today

Protesters of the government’s decision to end fuel subsidies left the central area of Cuenca’s historic district early Thursday evening but student leaders from the University of Cuenca said they planned to return Friday.

Police closed off Parque Calderon before noon on Thursday.

For much of Thursday, police chased groups of protesters, numbering from a few dozen to more than a hundred, through El Centro streets after Parque Calderon was closed off with barricades. The protesters set trash fires in a number of locations to dilute the effect of tear gas. Streets began to clear about 7 p.m. when army troops arrived to reinforce police and an 8 p.m. curfew was announced on social media.

In a news conference, Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacio urged calm and said that the political protests affect only a small part of the city. “The disturbances are centered within a few blocks in the center of the historic district and have no affect on most of the city,” he said. “We believe Friday will be more peaceful thanks to the emergency declaration. We hope that people can return to their normal lives but it appears that the transportation strike will continue.”

He added: “I fully support the right to protest but we will insist it is done in a peaceful, respectful manner.”

The state of emergency declared by President Lenin Moreno allows the use of military personnel to restore order and clear roads and gives the government the right to set curfews.

Unlike Guayaquil, Palacios said there was no looting or vandalism in the Cuenca protests.

Palacios met with representatives of city taxi owners Thursday morning and discussed the possibility of raising fares as a consequence of higher gasoline prices. He said he agreed fares would increase if higher fuel prices remain in effect but said it was too early to make a change.

Thursday’s protest began with a rally of about 200 university students in Parque Calderon. When some in the crowd began throwing debris and paintballs, police responded with tear gas. The crowd dispersed but after the park was closed protests continued in the surrounding streets.

10 thoughts on “Calm returns to Cuenca’s El Centro but more protests are expected today

  1. It’s correct that the protests affect only a small part of town. Things are peaceful where I live. The only problem is that I can’t get a taxi.

  2. I was in El Centro last night and enjoyed the party atmosphere. A few of the folks were rowdy but I never felt in danger except from the tear gas. I didn’t see any vandalism.

  3. It was interesting that when the cops came down the street with the LRAD it was announced with an English recording. It wasn’t turned up very high. When it is, it can break your eardrums.

  4. being the extremely shallow person that i am, has anyone been to Feria Libre & know if they got fresh fish & shrimp for today??

  5. Raise the fares now. Students need to get to classes, businesses need to operate, people need to get to jobs, planes need to fly, people need to get groceries, people need to get to doctors, taxi and bus drivers need to earn a living too. Eliminate the subsidies, but be reasonable about it.

    1. Absolutely right… protest is fine.. in this case the taxi and busdrivers but than you always get the outsiders to mingle and they have nothing to do with the purpose…students go to your studies. These subsidies unfortunately were always artificially upheld without a real fund.

  6. For the record, Correa promised to end all the fuel subsidies, including for LP gas, in 2013. He used the same arguments that Moreno is using now but didn’t have the cojones to follow through.

    1. You are correct. Instead…. Correa (who should have known better, with a PhD in Economics) tried to create dollars out of thin air…. by introducing a digital currency with a fiat value equal to $1…. (which is also a fiat currency)….Anyway with so many people (including the Gringo community) hoping against hope…. the whole thing predictably fizzled.

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