Cuenca presents ‘wish list’ to new government; Latam flight diversion could lead to fine; Landslides restrict access to the Amazonia; Lasso seeks closer U.S. ties

May 26, 2021 | 0 comments

Cuenca is asking the new government of Guillermo Lasso to relocate violent criminals from the Turi prison, to fund the hiring of additional police and to take over payments of the city’s tram debt to the French government. In addition, the municipality is requesting the designation of a special investment zone and tax reductions to generate employment.

The Turi prison, south of Cuenca, houses 2,800 inmates, many of them from Guayas and Manabi provinces.

The city delivered its requests to Vice President Alfredo Borrero, a Cuenca native, last week when he was in town to review damage from recent floods. During the presidential campaign, Lasso agreed that the Turi prison should only house inmates from Azuay, Loja, Cañar and El Oro Provinces, as originally planned. In February, 34 inmates died during a riot that primarily involved criminal gangs from Guayas and Manabi provinces. Also during the campaign, Lasso said he would consider assuming the tram debt, which amounts to about $50 million.

Among the city’s other requests are funding to improve the Cuenca airport and to extend internet service to rural areas.

Lasso says he will improve relations with the U.S.
President Guillermo Lasso said Tuesday he intends to improve relations between Ecuador and the U.S. “We are all aware of the traditional good relations Ecuador has had with the United States and my government intends to further strengthen those relations,” he said at a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Michael Fitzpatrick and others.

U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Michael Fitzpatrick

Although most of the meeting was behind closed doors, Lasso acknowledged the contribution of improved relations that started under former president Lenin Moreno. “The friendship between the two countries suffered during past governments but it is my intention to continue the improvement that began under President Moreno.”

In addition to Lasso and Fitzpatrick, others attending the meeting were U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie Chung, Special Assistant to the President and Chief Director for the Western Hemisphere Security Council Juan Gonzalez, Ecuador Ambassador to the U.S. Ivonne Baki and Ecuador foreign minister Mauricio Montalvo.

Flight diversion at Cuenca airport could draw fines
Ecuador’s Civil Aviation Directorate says it may sanction Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar airport due to the diversion of a flight Sunday afternoon. A Latam flight was forced to return to Quito because the airport did not have adequate personnel to provide fire emergency service. Under Ecuador civil aviation rules, the airport must have six to eight firefighters on hand for flight arrivals but only four were available Sunday in Cuenca.

Following the incident, city councilor Cristian Zamora claimed the civil aviation agency had approved a September 2020 request from the airport authority to reduce the number of firefighters to four, as a cost-cutting measure. He claims most arriving flights since that time have arrived with four firefighters standing by. A civil aviation agency spokesman disagreed, however, saying such permission was never granted.

Cuenca Mayor Pablo Palacio has ordered airport director Juan Pablo Vega to deliver a full report on the incident. “This shameful event, caused by the lack of personnel at our airport, that affected a large number of people, should never have happened,” he wrote. “The safety of passengers arriving in Cuenca should always be the top priority.”

The diverted Latam flight returned to Cuenca Sunday night.

Landslides cut road access to Amazonia  
The three major roads connecting Azuay and Morona Santiago Provinces remain closed due to landslides. The affected roads are Paute – Guarumales – Méndez; Sígsig – Gualaquiza; and Gualaceo – Milagro. The Ministry of Transportation and Public Works is clearing rocks and mud but says new rainfall will slow the progress.

Further north, in the western Amazonia, two landslides are blocking the highways connecting Macas and Puyo and Macas and Riobamba.

In other areas near Cuenca, the transport ministry reports it is working around the clock to maintain traffic flow on the highways between Cuenca and Guayaquil and Cuenca and Machala.

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