Although 2011 was an extraordinarily rainy year in Cuenca, the city fared better than most of the country. Some provinces on the coast and in the northern Andean inter-mountain region have been devasted by floods and landslides, receiving as much as 300% of average annual rainfall totals. Rainfall was close to the record-setting totals of the 1998 El Niño year which caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage.
Cuenca received more than double its annual rainfall in 2011, almost 72 inches compared to the historic average of 28.5 inches
According to forecasters, the unseasonal rains are likely to continue in 2012, at least through April. In Cuenca, rainfall totals are 60% above average for January and February.
Forecasters at Ecuador´s National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (INAMHI), say that several factors contribute to the excessive rain. The main one, they say, is a flow of moisture from the Amazon region. “The flow has been almost continuous for many months,” according to a INAMHI statement. The statement says that the current El Niño, the one that has caused severe droughts in the southern United States, especially Texas, and Mexico, is indirectly responsible. “The moisture from the Amazon is being pulled to the west, over Ecuador, by conditions created by the El Niño.
POLICE MAKE 21 DRUG-RELATED ARRESTS IN LA MERCED PLAZA TOURIST AREA, STEP UP PATROLS
A police crackdown on drug sales in the La Merced Plaza and surrounding streets has netted 21 arrests in three weeks and business owners in the area say they are seeing a marked decrease of criminal activity.
La Merced, at the corner of Borrero and Calle Larga, is better known to Cuenca tourists and expats as the site of the Coffee Tree café, has been a magnet for mostly small-scale drug activity for years, police say.
Hotel, restaurant and bar owners approached police in December demanding more law enforcement presence and arrests. A police spokesman said the owners were correct and agreed to step up enforcement. “This area is very popular with tourists and it is our responsibility to keep criminal elements out. We will continue with the increased patrols and expect to make more arrests.”
PRESIDENT CORREA ISSUES PARDON FOR EL UNIVERSO AND REPORTERS IN $42 MILLION LIBEL CASE
President Rafael Correa has granted an executive pardon to the newspaper El Universo, and four of its employees, nullifying a court’s imposition of prison terms and a $42 million fine for criminal libel against Correa.
The legal attack on El Universo had prompted allegations by international press freedom and human rights groups that the leftist president is using a judiciary of dubious independence to silence critics.
Correa said in a brief televised address that he was forgiving the three-year prison terms against three executives and the former opinion page editor of El Universo, whom he sued a year ago under a criminal defamation law.
In addition, Correa said he was dropping a libel case against two other journalists who wrote a book that said companies tied to his older brother had $600 million in contracts with the Ecuadorean state but he did not act on the conflict of interest until they had revealed it publicly.
Photo caption: Paraguas have been out in force on Cuenca streets as rains continue. Photo credit: El Teimpo.