Despite being tear-gassed near the presidential palace on Tuesday, Ecuador’s mayors insist they will not leave Quito until the government explains how and when it will pay its debt to the municipalities. The mayors claim that cities are owed more than a billion dollars and that President Lenin Moreno refuses to discuss a payment plan.
More than 100 of the country’s 221 mayors and their supporters marched from El Arbolito Park to Carondelet Palace, where they met a cordon of police that responded by firing several canisters of tear gas. Among those gassed was the president of the Ecuadorian Association of Municipalities Raúl Delgado, mayor of Paute.
“If the president will not meet with us, we insist on an audience with the Finance Minister [Mauricio Pozo],” Delgado told the crowd at Plaza Grande. “Without the money we are owed, we cannot carry out basic works in our cities and cannot even pay our employees. We have been promised the money for months but it has not arrived and now the government is even disputing the amount of our claim.”
Esmeraldas Mayor Lucía Sosa told the crowd that cities feel betrayed. “At the worst possible time, during this terrible pandemic, the government withholds our funds. We are struggling to serve our citizens in a time of crisis but are unable to provide even basic services in many cases.”
Following the brief encounter with police, the mayors met with members of the National Assembly and Interior Minister Gabriel Martínez, who said they needed to talk to Pozo about a payment plan. According to Delgado, the total debt to municipalities is $1.05 billion.