Responding to a growing number of complaints, Cuenca Mayor Paul Granda has announced a series of meetings with managers and vendors at the sprawling west-side El Arenal market. In recent months, shoppers and vendors at the market –commonly known as Fiera Libre– say that lack of competent management has led to chaotic conditions. Located on Av. Las Americas, Fiera Libre is Cuenca’s largest market and one of the largest in Ecuador.
Complaints include increasing numbers of unlicensed vendors, unscheduled truck deliveries that block roads and parking areas, public drunkenness and an overall lack of security.
Vendors who rent space in the market say that “squatters” are the biggest problem. Rosa Gomez says some paying vendors are prepared to take matters into their own hands if the city does not enforce laws against unlicensed vendors. “I pay $110 a month to be here but there are dozens of vendors in the parking lots and sidewalks who pay nothing, not rent or taxes.” Paying vendors, like Gomez, say unlicensed vendors block access to the market by occupying space in parking lots and streets.
Javier Serrano, head of Cuenca’s city markets committee, says he understands the seriousness of the situation. “We are meeting with all parties to find solutions and I’m confident we will make significant progress.” He adds: “My job is to report back to the mayor and I want to have good news.”
SRI OFFICIALS CLOSE 10 BARS AND CLUBS IN CUENCA
Federal tax authorities have shuttered 10 Cuenca bars and night clubs for violating tax rules. Most of the affected establishments are located on Calle Larga and Avenida Remigio Crespo. Length of the closures range from one to three weeks, depending on the violation.
According to Jhosep Fajardo, spokesperson for Ecuador Internal Revenue Service (SRI), the operation was part of a national investigation that resulted in 180 business closures country-wide. Most of the closures, he said, were due to businesses not providing customers with sales receipts.
Businesses closed in Cuenca included: Shots; Zo Pub and Club; Dubai Bar;, Sport Bar and Discotec; The Garden; Samira Liquor; Sesame Street; Mega Fox Spirits; Zorro; and Sesame Street #2.
A number of other bars were investigated but passed muster and were allowed to continue operations. They include Green; Sabaneta; Monday Blue; Cana Brava Liquor; and The Tavern.
CUENCA RESIDENT, RESTAURANT OWNER CRAIG STARLING DIES AT 51
Cuenca resident Craig Starling, 51, died Thursday morning in his apartment in the historic district. An autopsy reported the cause of death to be heart failure.
Starling was the owner of Poncho’s restaurant on Calle Larga and had lived in Cuenca for two years. Before moving to Ecuador he had owned and operated restaurants and property management companies in Houston and Galveston, Texas.
Family members in Houston and Tallahassee, Florida are working with the U.S. Consulate in Guayaquil to return Starling’s remains to Texas for burial.
Photo credits: Mayor Paul Granda tackles problems at Cuenca's biggest mercado; A 1999 casting of a 'Wawa Grande' footprint made at the University of Cuenca. The print, which appears human-like, measures 19 inches in length.