Climbers die in Chimborazo avalanche; Tuesday protests to proceed; More police for Cuenca holidays; Street vendors object to city’s relocation plan

Oct 25, 2021

Four mountain climbers died early Sunday in an avalanche on Mount Chimborazo. Rescue workers said the dead were part of a group of 12 Ecuadorians attempting to summit Ecuador’s highest peak. The accident happened in the Chimborazo Wildlife Reserve at an elevation of 6,100 meters, or about 20,015 feet.

Emergency workers recovered the bodies of mountain climbers killed in Sunday’s avalanche on Mount Chimborazo.

According to the Ecuador emergency response service, the avalanche was triggered by heavy snowfall on Chimborazo and other nearby peaks. On Sunday afternoon rescuers were climbing 5,319-meter (17,451-foot) El Altar, 40 miles to the southeast in an effort to reach a group of 20 foreign tourists reportedly suffering from hypothermia.

Tuesday protests to proceed, Conaie says
The governing council of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) voted Sunday to proceed with plans for Tuesday’s protests. The vote followed President Guillermo Lasso decision Friday to freeze price gasoline and diesel prices at current rates, a move Conaie President Leonidas Iza called “too little, too late.”

In a statement, the Conaie council called Lasso’s order a “fraud” since it did not roll back fuel prices to 2019 levels. “The current price penalizes Ecuadorian families since it increases the price of food and other basic goods. The indigenous movement declares itself in official resistance against the government and maintains all plans for Tuesday’s mobilization.” The statement continued, accusing Lasso of “using a temporary ruse” that will allow him to increases prices in the future.

The protest will concentrate in Quito but Conaie also plans protest marches in Guayaquil, Cuenca, Ambato and other major cities.

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City street vendors object to relocation plan
An organization representing Cuenca street vendors is demanding to meet with Mayor Pedro Palacios to discuss plans to reduce informal commercial activity on sidewalks and streets. “It is clear that the mayor and his government are unaware of the situation of small businesses in the city,” said Sebastián Cevallos, lawyer for the Azuay Federation of Retail Traders.

Informal vendors crowd the sidewalk outside the 9 of Octubre market in the historic district.

Responding to complaints of residents living in crowded market districts, Palacios said changes are necessary to “clear sidewalks for the use of pedestrians and the streets for the use of motor vehicles.” According to Cristian Patiño, director of city markets, the problem is worse near the 9 of Octubre and 10 of August markets in the historic district. “In a number of locations, vendors have taken over sidewalks entirely, forcing pedestrians to walk into the street, endangering themselves and disrupting traffic.”

The city wants to create designated sales areas in several locations, including the Febres Cordero school, currently undergoing renovation, the Ezequiel Crespo school, the Paso Hermano Miguel and on Calle Antonio Valdiviezo and the bus transfer center at Feria Libre.

Cevallos claims the city did consult with street vendors in developing its plan. “Circumstances are terrible for sellers because of the pandemic and the bad economy and they are struggling to feed their families,” he says. “It would be cruel to move them to places where they are unable to sell their products and make a living.”

More police for Cuenca holidays
There will be an increased police presence during the Cuenca independence holiday and Day of the Dead celebrations this week, according to Azuay Governor Matías Abad.  “We are in a state of emergency for rising crime rates and efforts of the police, aided by the Armed Forces, will be intensified during the holiday weekend.”

In addition to conducting routine holiday patrols, police are stepping up highway checks for weapons, ammunition, explosives and drugs. “The criminal drug crimes that operate on the coast have not reached the Cuenca and the sierra and we want to keep it that way,” Matías said. “Some of the highway stops for police checks will be uncomfortable for tourists coming to Cuenca but we asked for their understanding of our work to stop crime.”

In total, Matías says there will be 700 more law enforcement personnel assigned to holiday duty in Azuay Province than in 2019. The holidays were cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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