As part of the International Day Without Cars, many of Cuenca’s streets were closed Sunday as thousands of walkers, runners and cyclists replaced motor vehicles.
Acitivities included a 5K run with about 3,500 participants, several cycling events, organized hikes and several extreme sports competitions. In addition, a regional athletic competition brought thousdands more out to various sports venues reound town.
Carlos Fernandez de Cordova of the city’s mobility office, said the purpose of the day without cars is to promote alternative forms of transportation. The Cuenca mobility office estimates that there are about of 110,000 motor vehicles in Cuenca. “We hope this will show people that it is possible to reduce the numbers of cars.” De Cordova says that the number of registered cars in Cuenca increases by about 5% a year.
Red Cross volunteers said they attended to dozens of cases of overheated runners and cyclists as temperatures approached 80 degrees at mid-afternoon.
Firefighters combat 83 fires in Azuay and Cañar
Fire department and police authorities say that the indigenous ritual of setting fires to attract rain as well as uncontrolled burns to provide food for livestock were to blame for dozens of fires over the weekend in Azuay and Cañar provinces. Most of the fires were small, with the largest burning eight hectares.
Authorities say that the fire-for-rain ritual dates back hundreds of years to the Cañari culture, as does the clear-burning practice. Cuenca fire chief Oswaldo Ramirez says that the traditions persists despite educational campaigns to convince rural residents of the dangers. “Of course, it makes matters worse that the fires are set at the driest time of year.”
Ramirez said his office is working with authorities in rural parishes to end the practices.
Several firefighters required medical attention, Ramirez said, mostly for minor burns and smoke inhalation.
Officially, Cuenca has received less than an inch of rain in the last six weeks. Weekend temperatures rose into the high 70s while humidity levels dropped below 20%. Ramirez says he hopes for a break in the weather on Monday. “The weather people tell me that we might get some clouds and a little rain,” he said.
Government warns of Coopera ‘cash gap’
President Rafael Correa and Economic Policy Minister Patricio Rivera said Saturday that 114,630 members of the failed Cuenca financial cooperative Coopera, or 99.42% of the total, have been repaid or have opted to leave their accounts with other cooperatives.
Rivera said he will work with the 660 unpaid Coopera members to restore as much money as possible but cautioned that there is a “cash gap” between the accounts and cash on hand. “I do not believe that all the unpaid members will be fully compensated,” he said.
Representatives for the unpaid Coopera members say that the remaining 660 accounts represents more than 60% of all money invested in
Coopera at the time of its closing.
In his Saturday television broadcast Correa said he understands the “pain and desperation” felt by unpaid Coopera members and said the government would restore as much of their money as possible.
Photo caption: Thousands of Cuencanos celebrated International Day Without Cars on Sunday; Credit: El Tiempo