Cuenca mayor’s race attracts a crowd, including expat Pallanca; Contest is wide-open, analysts say
Cuencanos will have plenty of choices for mayor when they go to the polls in February. By Saturday’s deadline, 11 candidates had filed to run for the position, including incumbent Pedro Palacios. The field includes some well-known names as well as a three candidates who are making their first run for public office.
All mayoral candidates are paired with candidates for Azuay Province prefect and supported by political parties registered with the elections committee.
In addition to Palacios, the contenders for Cuenca mayor include former Azuay prefect Paúl Carrasco, Olympic gold medalist Jefferson Pérez, director of the National Transit Agency Adrián Castro and retired National Police colonel Mario Castro.
Among the political newcomers is Italian expat Luca Pallanca, a restaurant owner known for his humanitarian work for Venezuelan refugees and rural communities near Cuenca.
According to political analyst and former municipal councilwoman Caroline Avila, the mayor’s race is wide open. “In earlier times, the sitting mayor would have the advantage but this is no longer the case,” she says. “The incumbent has been defeated in the last five elections and, given the poor economy, I think Palacios will have a difficult time holding his seat. In the current climate, having a political history and a known reputation is not necessarily an advantage.”
Avila believes that Pallanca should be considered one of the favorites. “Even though he is a foreigner, he is a fresh face with a reputation for helping people and getting things done. He also earned respect when he negotiated the release of medical supply trucks from roadblockers in Mollutero during the indigenous strike. Palacios tried and failed to do this.”
Avila adds that despite his “political baggage,” two-time former mayor Marcelo Cabrera cannot be counted out in the race for prefect. “He has lost more elections than he won but he has many friends and a record that many people like.”
Understanding the candidates’ positions on the issues is almost impossible to know at this point, according to University of Azuay political science professor Marco Quinde. “You have alliances between conservative and leftist parties supporting the same candidate for mayor and prefect. Maybe we will find out where they stand when the campaign begins but I’m afraid it will mostly be a personality contest, as has been the case in the past.”
Among the other candidates for mayor are Verónica Abad, Roque Ordóñez, Jaime Moreno, Cristian Zamora and Alfredo Aguilar,
Candidates for Azuay prefect include Diego Morales, Magali Quezada, Sebastián Cevallos, Carlos Ayabaca, Dora Ordóñez, Diego Monsalve, Juan Cristóbal Lloret, Ruth Caldas, Carlos Orellana, Marcelo Cabrera and Arariwa Sigcha.