Cuenca cleans up, restores and restocks
Cuenca was busy Friday clearing and cleaning roads while hundreds of supply trucks, some of them stuck behind roadblocks for two weeks, rolled into town. Markets and stores were busy refilling shelves that had been left empty by the 18-day indigenous strike and LP gas supply trucks resumed their routes to commercial customers.
Friday night, with the state of emergency lifted, many of the city’s restaurants and bars were packed. At Parque Calderon, hundreds gathered to watch the performance of an indigenous dance troupe and visit the surrounding stores and cafes. If native dance wasn’t your thing, singers performed Latin ballads at the glorieta across the park.
“I have never seen Cuenca so busy and I am happy to see it,” said restaurant owner Alex Toala. “It’s fabulous to watch people having a good time again and to see the crowded streets and sidewalks. We all have a lot of catching up to do.”
Toala added that the news is not all good. “Businesses have suffered big loses and some people have lost their jobs. It will take some time for everything to return to normal.”
Outside of Cuenca, highway intersections Sayausí and Tarqui were cleared of rocks and dirt left by strikers. Afterward, street cleaners moved in to wash road surfaces of soot left from two weeks of protest fires. In Molleturo on the Cajas highway, boulders the size of trucks and two-meter-high mounds of dirt were removed by tractors as a long line of trucks passed in the open lane.
The Ministry of Transportation ordered all of its heavy machinery off construction sites to help with the clean-up. Luis Mario Barzallo, regional director of MTOP, said the work could take two to three days. “When we finish, most drivers won’t be able to tell there were roadblocks on these highways.”
By Friday afternoon, all major highways were cleared of most debris although MTOP warned that some roads remain partially closed and warned motorists of smaller rocks that remain to be cleaned up.
Supermarkets were restocking empty shelves by late morning as fresh produce arrived to some stores for the first time in more than two weeks. At Civic Plaza, outside the 9 de Octubre market, street vendors sold flats of eggs, unavailable since the beginning of the strike, to long lines of customers.
The managers of the terminal terrestre bus station on Av. España, said that many bus routes were operating Friday night and that the rest would restart Saturday. They said that tickets to Guayaquil and Loja were in high demand.
A spokesman for Austrogas said that it will take three to four days to fully restock the city with LP gas. “Under normal conditions, customers buy 10,000 cylinders a day and we have a 40,000 tank backlog,” he said. “Some delivery services were resupplying commercial addresses on Friday but it will take a few day before domestic service is normal.”
The streets surrounding the city’s large mercados were filled with supply trucks Friday afternoon. “Like everyone else, we need to restore our supplies and rebuild inventory and this will take a day or two,” said Cristian Patiño, Municipal Markets Manager. “We built a large amount of good will during the strike by having fresh products that the supermarkets didn’t, so our goal is to keep our new customers by improving our services.”