Because of pandemic restrictions, the traditional burning of New Year’s monigotes, or dummies, is banned tonight but many expect the order to be ignored. “There will be fire in the streets no matter what the government says,” an unnamed seller of monigotes near the Feria Libre market predicted. “People see that the vaccine rules at restaurants and stores aren’t being followed so why would they be enforced tonight? People are ready to have fun.”
In a nationwide order issued December 14, the Emergency Operations Committee banned most holiday events, including the New Year’s Eve burning of monigotes, in an effort to reduce large public gatherings. The COE also required that businesses and public events operating under capacity restrictions require proof of vaccination for entry.
The COE later updated its original order banning the sale of monigotes, saying they could sold but could only be burned on private property with small family gatherings.
Edgar Morales, a reporter for a Cuenca radio station, agrees with the monigote vendor. “There aren’t enough police the stop the burning and how do they decide who sets the monigotes on fire?” he asks. “We all know the pandemic is almost over and we’re tired of the senseless rules.”
Morales also agrees with the vendor that other restrictions are not being enforced. He and another radio station employee conducted a survey of businesses and found that less than 20 percent of them were asking to see vaccination certificates. “Even some of those that asked for it a few days ago have stopped,” he says. “On Monday, the Supermaxi at Miraflores asked for my papers but when I went back Wednesday the guy at the entrance just said ‘Buenas trarde.’ There was a big sign by the door saying vaccines were required but the guy didn’t ask for it.”
At the El Vergel Supermaxi, he says he was asked for the certificate on Thursday but was waved through when he said he didn’t have one. “The rules seem to change by the day but there doesn’t seem to be much interest in enforcement,” he says.
In his survey, Morales said that some restaurants that asked for vaccine proof last weekend have stopped. “Businesses are putting up the signs but most of them are not doing any checks and some owners tell me that this is all the municipality is requiring. Apparently, the local government dosen’t like what the Ministry of Health and COE ordered so they are not checking.”
Former Cuenca municipal councilman Gustavo Rosero said there is little enthusiasm for punishing businesses that don’t follow the COE restrictions. “There is some anger among the local, autonomous governments about these restrictions,” he says. “To conduct full enforcement would require personnel they don’t have and they are sympathetic to businesses that have suffered through two years of the pandemic. How do you tell a cafe or little restaurant that they have to pay someone to stand at the door and check papers?”
Public skepticism about the rules also poses a problem for local officials, Rosero says. “People understand that the pandemic situation is much improved and, especially in the holidays, they want to go out and enjoy themselves,” he says. “They are also suspicious of the government’s fear of the Omicron variant. They read that it’s like a cold and that it will pass through quickly. They have followed the rules for two years, they have gotten vaccinated and worn their masks and now that things are better they want to resume their lives.”
The Feria Libre monigotes vendor says he plans to join friends in the streets Friday night to celebrate the New Year. “I plan to burn a lot of my own product and expect to see other people doing it too,” says. “My neighbor works for the police and says he plans to take off his uniform and join us.”