Cuenca faces traffic gridlock Tuesday as transport sector joins strike; Monday protests turn violent
If you own car, keep it in the garage today. That was the advice of Cuenca taxi, bus and truck owners who plan to block city streets from a 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. “It will very difficult to navigate the city Tuesday since the entire transport sector will show its solidarity with the national strike by positioning our units throughout the city,” said Alex Cedeño, spokesman for Cuenca taxi owners.
He added: “All transport owners and workers are in full agreement with the demands Conaie has presented the government, especially the demand to reduce the price of fuel.”
Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios promised retaliation if streets are blocked, saying owners would be fined and criminal charges could be brought if blockages impede emergency vehicles or the delivery of food, fuel and other essential goods.
Cuenca got a taste of the transport strike Monday when more than 200 owners of heavy cargo trucks blocked several streets, including Av. Solano and Av. España.
In addition to traffic blockages by transport vehicles, the city can expect more protests and roadblocks by protesters on Tuesday. Violence broke out Monday at Feria Libre, the city’s largest market on Av. Las Americas, as well as in Parque Calderon and on Av. 12 de Abril, adjacent to the University of Cuenca campus.
In addition, city streets were blocked in at least 20 locations as police occasionally dispersed protesters with tear gas and mounted officers. Among major intersections seeing temporary blockages were Av. Ordóñez Lasso at the Balzay roundabout; Av. 12 de Abril at Solano; Remigio Crespo at Unidad Nacional; Av. Las Americas at Av. Mexico; and Av. Loja at Don Bosco.
Protesters at Feria Libre blocked traffic and the tram on Av. Las Americas Monday morning while police attempted to control the crowd with tear gas. Some of the protesters marched south on Las Americas, blocking the intersection at Primero de Mayo and at the Coral shopping center.
A late afternoon protest at Parque Calderon began peacefully but turned violent when several protesters began throwing rocks at police guarding the provincial Gobierno building. The rockthrowers were confronted by other protesters, insisting the gathering remain peaceful. Police say several fights broke out among protesters. Behind plexiglass shields, police did not respond to the attacks and the protest broke up by 8 p.m.
Police say the Gobierno building suffered broken windows and other exterior damage. One man was injured when he was struck by a rock.
Later, police threw tear gas on Av. 12 Abril after a small crowd attempted to block the roadway.
Due to the transport protest, municipal officials said that city buses, taxis and the tram will not operate Tuesday.