Cuenca’s return to normalcy could take a few days, leaders caution

Oct 14, 2019 | 41 comments

Although indigenous leaders have called off their national strike, a return to normal routines in Cuenca may take several days.

Ecuadorians celebrated Sunday night in Cuenca and Quito following the announcement of an agreement between the government and indigenous groups.

“We are very happy that we have reached an agreement but we must be realistic in the amount of time it will take to resume our normal lives,” Azuay Prefect Yaku Perez said Sunday night as he celebrated the agreement between the government and indigenous leaders in Quito.

Dozens of roadblocks must be dismantled and, after that, a 10-day backlog of supplies must be transported to Cuenca, Perez said. “This will not happen overnight and people will have to be patient,” he said.

Perez added that there are groups in the indigenous community that are not satisfied with Sunday’s agreement and some of them will be reluctant to remove roadblocks. “We must still talk to our brothers and sisters who have other concerns and convince them that we have reached the best agreement possible. We have more work to do,” he said.

Among the city’s biggest backlogs is propane gas. Although some gas tankers arrived in town Saturday morning as part of an army-escorted convoy, they provided only enough gas to fill 10,000 canisters. “This is obviously not much for a city of 650,000,” says National Police spokesman Paul Ramos. “Without tonight’s agreement we were facing a huge crisis so it is a great relief that a settlement has been achieved. It will still take most of the week to restore normal supplies.”

Schools and universities will remain closed Monday although the Universities of Cuenca and Azuay say they will reopen Tuesday.

Food supplies, especially produce and meats, remain low in some stores although the city’s nine mercados and the supermarket chain Coral are well stocked. In a Saturday WhatsApp group post, the manager of Cuenca’s Supermaxis said the chain planned to close its stores on Tuesday due to a lack of supplies.

Gasoline and diesel shipments to the city were not affected by the strike since they are delivered via pipeline from Guayaquil.

Flights in and out of Cuenca’s Mariscal La Mar Airport have been suspended since Friday but should resume late Monday or Tuesday, according to the airport administration. The flight suspensions were the result of road blockages between Quito and the Quito airport, where hundreds of air passengers were stranded over the weekend. Almost all flights to Quito was cancelled Saturday and Sunday.

Inter-provincial bus service should resume this week but the timing depends on the clearance of roadblocks.

The city government faces about $200,000 of repair work in the historic district, the result of vandalism during the protests.

City hotels, restaurants and tourism agencies say their loses could run into the millions of dollars due to the strike.

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