‘Drunk gringos’ among those nabbed in police stops; hundreds sent to jail in recent sweeps aimed at reducing traffic accidents.
Cuenca’s aggressive campaign to get drunk drivers off the streets resulted in 48 arrests on Friday and Saturday nights. So far this year, more than 600 have been arrested.
According to Edita Ordoñez, police coordinator of the anti-drunk driving effort, says the dragnets are intended to improve public health. “The more of these people we can get off the streets, the fewer accidents we have,” she says. “Driving drunk in Ecuador is the number one cause of accidents.”
About half the breathalyzer tests are conducted on Av. Remigio Crespo and Bajada de Todos Santos, the street between Calle Larga and the Todo Santos bridge over the Rio Tomebamba. The others are conducted in other areas near restaurants, bars, and night clubs.
A police officer working Remigio Crespo Wednesday night, said a number of English-speaking foreigners have been arrested during the operations. “We don’t make a distinction between Cuencanos, tourists and foreign residents,” he said. “If their blood alcohol rate is above 0.3, we arrest them.”
During the Wednesday patrol, the officer said that a foreigner became violent when he was told he was going to jail. “We needed three officers to restrain him. He said he had lived in Cuenca for five years and that he was an important person and we told him we didn’t care how important he was, he was drunk and was going to jail.”
According to the officer, police do not keep statistics on the number of tourists or foreign residents arrested.
Ordoñez says that alcohol is a factor in more than half of the traffic accidents in Azuay Province. “We have found that these arrests have a direct impact on reducing accidents,” she said. “A few nights in jail sends a strong message.”