Cuenca is country’s most expensive city; ATM scam artists are arrested; Tram contracts were illegal, say assemblymen; Senior center offers day care
Hola, Todos –
Cuenca, ciudad cara para vivir (Cuenca, an expensive city to live in) – Data from the Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Censos (INEC) shows that the Family Basic Basket costs $30 more in Cuenca than the rest of the country. In 12/2021, the national average for this basket of basic goods was $719.65 and in Cuenca it was $749.46. Cuenca also had an inflation rate of 3.08%, exceeded only by Santo Domingo at 3.16%. The national average was 1.94%. Rodrigo Mendieta, a professor at the U. of Cuenca attributed the economic dynamism to productive activities and overseas remittances. He said that manufacturing, exports, industry and the tourism sector, which revived at the end of 2022 thanks to vaccinations, have allowed the economic growth with rising prices as a result. In addition to more employment sources in Cuenca are better salaries which are higher than the national average. He said the level of life is higher with better public services and less poverty relative to other cities.
Another factor affecting prices in Cuenca are remissions from overseas Ecuadorians which broke reports in 2021. Economist Luis Tobar said that contrary to what was expected during the pandemic, remittances rose going from $3.224 billion in 2019 and to $3.337 billion in 2020. They are expected to reach $3.5 billion in 2021. The cities receiving the most remittances are Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, but given the population, Cuenca receives the most. Tobar reported that transportation increased the most in Cuenca, as in the rest of the country. There were also increases in prices for tourist services and health.
Cuenca – Old news
From sábado, 29/1/2022 – “El Tranvía de Cuenca conduce a París” (“The Cuenca Tram leads to Paris”) – Assemblymen Bruno Segovia and Fernanco Villavicencio held a press conference in which preliminary findings of an investigation started 7 months ago into the award, execution, and post construction of the Tranvía were revealed. They condemned the lack of information from local institutions, the central government and previous governments. Among other documents, they presented the Convenio Específico de Cooperación Técnica Interinstitucional (Specific Inter-Institutional Technical Cooperation Agreement) in the Instituto National de Preinversión (INP -National Preinvestment Institute) and in the Municipio de Cuenca for the Elaboración de estudios complementarios y de la engeniería básica del Tranvía (Preparation of complementary studies and basic engineering of the tramway).
What was found in the 2011 document was that the French company Artelia did the prefeasibility and feasibility studies without charging a single penny. Villavicencio said that this generousity had a reason because the study said that the tranvía was the only solution to mobility and transport problems in Cuenca. This led to the signing for a line of credit by the Paúl Granda administration with the French bank Natixis and with the firm Alstom which headed the French consortium. Villavicencio showed a letter that Granda wrote to the French Ambassador and the response in which a loan of 90 million Euros would be conditioned on contracting with the French consortium led by Alstom which was involved with Odebrecht. Villavicencio concluded that the money did not come from the French government, but a private bank. The contract should have been awarded through public bidding, but was ajudicados a dedo (awarded by fingertip – no bid).
Bruno Segovia talked about the construction and execution of the project which was used as a political flag by both Granda who was running for re-election as mayor, and Marcelo Cabrera who was also running for the office with the “no al tranvía” slogan. He presented an agreeement signed by Cabrera and a French firm supposedly agreeing that neither party would complain about delays in the work. He pointed out a precontractual study by a Basque firm that determined the Tranvía would need 120,000 riders a day to make it sustainable. But in 2017, there was another study indicating that a maximum of 35,000-65,000 riders would use the system.
He also showed a settlement document and what the Tranvía cost the city. The project was projected to cost $72 million, it was not finished and the civil engineering contract was unilaterally terminated by paying the CCRC consortium $30 million. He noted that they took the money but it was Cuencano civil engineers that did the work, and the consortium charged $12 for and performance bonds and warranties. He also talked about irresponsibility by the city in not expropriating land in time and not doing work so that the contractor doing the civil engineering work could do their job. He said that the original project was supposed to cost $261,373,000 but with the $30,000 million from the mediation and $10,000,000 annual subsidy, the total is over $300,000,000.
In the next few days, the National Assembly Audit Committee will approve the schedule for appearances by all the ex-officials, local authorities, businesses and audit firms related to this investigation. It will then present its findings to the full Assembly.
From domingo, 30/1/2022 – Dos opciones para cuidado de adultos (Two options for adult care) – Adultos mayores, seniors over 65 years old, can be part of the Centro de Cuidados del Adulto Mayor (Senior Citizen Care Center) of the Acción Social Municipal which offers day and ambulatory care. The first is offered daily from lunes a viernes with workshops and treatment in general medicine, social work, psychology, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. There is also balanced nutrition and comprehensive attention from the specialists of the Acción Social Municipal. Ambulatory services are provided from lunes a viernes with an appointment in the same areas. Requirements to be part of this initiative, for the wellbeing of seniors over 65 are your cédula and vaccine certificate. Registration is open. Call 099 308 8509 for day services and 096 305 5665 for ambulatory services.
Policía captura a 4 acusados da la modalidad “cambiazo” (Police apprehend 4 accused of “cambiazo” scheme) – Police arrested 4 people after a victim made a report. The victim went to an ATM and was distracted during the transaction. He was not able to withdraw money, and when he returned to his car he realized that the debit card was not his. He remembered that just before he tried to withdraw the money, someone had engaged him in a conversation and that the card must have been switched then. When he got home he called 911 and described the scam artists and a car. During the time between his report and when the police detained them, the victim received electronic transaction notifications that they had taken $500 and and another $130 from a different branch. In the thieves’ car, police found documents and debit cards from different ATMs as well as the money. These thieves hang around ATMs looking for customers who seem to be distracted or in a hurry. They recommend not accepting help from strangers and watch out for people getting close while you withdraw money since that’s when the “cambiazo” exchange is made.
Disminuyen en 79% los incendios forestales en provincia de Azuay (79% decrease in forest fires in Azuay) – The Unidad de Monitoreo de Eventos Adversos del Servicio Nacional de Gestión de Riesgos y Emergencias (Adverse Events Monitoring Unit of the National Risk and Emergency Management Service) announced that were were fewer forest fires in Azuay in 2021 than in 2022. In 2020 a total of 3,177 hectares were affected with the most in Cuenca at 874 followed by Girón with 415. In 2021, there were 663 hectares affected in the province with 169 in Cuenca followed by 113 in Oña. The Zonal 6 coordinator attributed this to a multi-agency compaign and constant changes in weather from intense sun to rain which made it easier to control fires. Environmental care entities recommended avoiding burning fires which can get out of control rapidly due to wind, make sure cigarette butts and matches are well extinguished when you are in vegetation, and use earth and water to put out campfires.
And that’s all for today so hasta ? –