El Centro protests becoming larger, more frequent; Taxi driver caught with wife in the front seat and lover in the trunk; More delays for Covid vaccine
Hundreds marched and shouted on Wednesday in Parque Calderon, protesting lack of job security for healthcare workers, the prohibition on sales of New Year’s Eve dummies and fireworks and deep budget cuts to the Azuay provincial government.
A day earlier, an estimated 200 Cuenca bar and discoteque owners and former employees gathered near the park to accuse the municipal government of depriving them of a livelihood while, across town at the massive Feria Libre market, informal merchants blocked Av. Las Americas and the tram tracks to protest their eviction from the market grounds.
Paul Piedra, of the regional Ombudsman’s office, said he expects the protests to intensify in the coming weeks, especially after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. “The suffering in Cuenca and across the country is increasing, much of it due to rules imposed by national and local governments,” he said. “People have lost their jobs and their businesses and the national government is not fulfilling its financial obligation to municipalities, provinces and paroquias, which means more loss of jobs and services. I expect that protests will grow in size and anger.”
During Wednesday’s protests, nurses and doctors from the public Vicente Corral Moscoso Hospital carried signs demanding that their contracts be extended. “We are putting ourselves at risk taking care of Covid victims and other critically sick patients and the government won’t tell us if we will have jobs after December 31,” said one protester. “Unless we get some answers, we face a very unhappy Christmas.”
A spokesman for sellers of holiday fireworks and New Year’s Even monigotes claimed the government offered no financial assistance after it prohibited the sale of their products. “For many of us, holiday sales are the largest part of our income for the year. It is unfair that we are told at the last minute, after we have constructed our products, that we cannot sell them.”
Quito cabbie had wife in the front seat and lover in the trunk
Observing what they thought was a physical altercation between a taxi driver and passenger, Quito police on Tuesday afternoon pulled over the taxi to investigate. The driver explained that the passenger was his wife with whom he was having a personal discussion and the wife concurred.
Hearing noises in the back of the vehicle, police ordered the driver to open the trunk where they discovered a young woman who said she was the driver’s girlfriend. Previously unaware of her presence, the wife had to be restrained from attacking the younger woman who escaped on foot.
Finding no illegal substances or firearms in the vehicle, police released the driver to the custody of his wife.
Vaccines could be delayed until February or March or even later
Only two days after the Ministry of Health’s deputy director said that vaccines would be available to healthcare workers and first responders in January, the ministry director said that it could be February or March or even later before the first doses are received. “We have been in discussions with [vaccine makers] Pfizer and Moderna and they are informing us that the worldwide demand is exceeding their capacity to manufacture sufficient quantities,” said Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos. “We were expecting 50,000 doses for critical workers in January but it appears that the shipment will be delayed.”
Zevallos continued: “We ask for the public’s understanding aboute scheduling issues that we have no control over. This is an unprecedented production and distribution project and we hope that any delays will be minor.”