Cuenca is ‘back to normal’ following Wednesday’s panic; Quito mayor decries false crime reports

Jan 12, 2024 | 0 comments

Most Cuenca businesses and government offices resumed their normal operations on Thursday following widespread closures on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday. City and interprovincial buses and the tram were operating full schedules and hospitals dropped restrictions imposed on Tuesday.

Soldiers patrol a street near Quito government offices on Thursday.

Like many business owners in the historic district, Diana Córdova’s jewelry store on Gran Colombia reopened to customers Thursday morning. “I’m sorry I lost business yesterday, but I was doing what everyone else did,” she said. “I’m mad all the things we heard Tuesday were not true, but we didn’t know that when it was happening.”

Córdova said she closed her doors and drove home Tuesday after the shop owner next door told her bombs were going off in El Centro. “I ran like everyone else and now I feel foolish,” she said.

In an afternoon interview, Mayor Cristian Zamora called Thursday an “almost normal day.” He said he was unsure if an afternoon drug bust in Barrial Blanco was related to gang activity. The raid netted several pounds of cocaine and marijuana. “Besides that, leaflets were left in several neighborhoods asking for negotiations to free the hostages at Turi prison, but we don’t know who is responsible,” he said.

Zamora said his biggest concern is for the estimated 60 guards and kitchen staff being held by prisoners at the Turi prison. “I understand talks are happening and we pray for a quick resolution for the hostages and their families,” he said. “It is important the people of Cuenca to know there are hundreds of police and soldiers stationed outside the prison to protect the city.”

Many stores and offices remained closed Thursday in Guayaquil while streets were patrolled by military troops. Two explosive devices were set off in a southside neighborhood and three cars was reported burned in other areas. Traffic on streets in the city’s businesses district was about half the normal flow, according to Mayor Achiles Alvarez, who left his office at mid-day to shake hands with soldiers on the street.

Quito was mostly calm with businesses, offices and transportation services reopened, according to Mayor Pabel Muñoz.

Muñoz quoted former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt that, “all we have to fear, is fear itself,” and complained about the large number of false reports of bombings and gang activity. “There is a lot of tension in the community and much of it is because of rumors,” he said. “I understand these are uncertain times and we have experienced moments of anguish, but we must not make things worse than they are.”

In comments to a radio station reporter Thursday night, Muñoz said his office had received 53 reports of suspected gang violence but only 18 turned out to be true. “Even with those, we are not sure they are related to the gangs. Of course, when anything violent happens the last few days, people blame the gangs.”

Muñoz said police detonated four suspicious packages in the city Thursday but only one contained explosives. He said that four car fires Wednesday night and Thursday morning are being investigated.

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