CUENCA DIGESTBus companies vow to shut down shuttle van services; tempers flare over the handling of Coopera closure

Jul 20, 2013

Following pressure from bus companies and bus drivers, Cuenca traffic officers are again stopping tourist vans headed in and out of town for Guayaquil, Machala and Loja. Officers are checking van registration and credentials to determine that they are being used for tours, not passenger service.

Bus companies say they will maintain pressure on police to stop, once and for all, passenger service they say is hurting their business. In the past, airlines have also complained that the service reduced the number of passengers flying between Cuenca and Guayaquil.

The union of bus drivers say they are frustrated by the fact the the vans continue to operate despite the fact that it is widely known that they are providing passenger service.

The van services, which operate out of offices on Av. Remigio Crespo, were shut down for two weeks last year in a similar crack-down.

By law, the vans are only licensed to carry passengers who are part of organized tours. Bus companies say that van company drivers routinely instruct passengers to tell police, if they are asked, that they are part of a tour when they not.

A Guayaquil Chamber of Commerce report earlier this year found that van services carry carry as many 300 passengers a day between Cuenca and Guayaquil. The report said that the service is responsible for eliminating one to two daily airline flights and reducing the income of bus companies.

In one of its informational brochures, the National Traffic Agency warns passengers that it is against the law to tell authorities that they are part of a tour when they are actually shuttle passengers.

Coopera audit to be complete by August 31

Azuay national assemblyman Oswaldo Larriva said yesterday that the final accounting in the Coopera liquidation should be complete by August 31. After that, he said, account holders may receive information about the status of their funds.chl Coop2

Larriva said that the Office of Economía Popular y Solidaria (SEPS), which is handling the dissolution of the financial cooperative, has told him that there is no new information for account holders with more than $10,000 invested in Coopera and that there will probably be none until after the audit is complete.

Account holders with less than $10,000 invested are currently being repaid through area cooperatives that have been assigned Coopera accounts by SEPS. According to SEPS, accounts with less than $10,000 represent more than 98% of all Coopera accounts.

Representatives for larger investors, meanwhile, said they were considering legal action against SEPS for ordering the closure, which they say has done precipitously, making it more difficult for account holders to recoup money. Some account holders demanded an explanation of the plan to distribute available funds, which pays back smaller account holders first. Several others threatened to begin a hunger strike until information is forthcoming.

The cancellation of a meeting between officials from SEPS, Larriva and Coopera member representatives, further inflamed emtions.

Larriva, speaking to about 100 Coopera account holders at the Azuay government building on Calderon Park, urged calm and said everything possible is being done to repay investors.  He also reported that the investigation into criminal charges against Coopera officials could take another three months.

Following the meeting, he emphasized that the liquidation of Coopera is being conducted by SEPS and that local authorities have limited involvement in the process. “Local governments have been approached by investors with several proposals about how to handle the situation but this is entirely up to the federal government. I realize that it’s difficult but all we can do at this point is wait.”

Photo caption: Coopera members at a meeting on Friday; photo credit: El Tiempo

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