Gang leaders run country’s prisons, study finds; Tram ridership doubles, feds agree to pay debt; Coworking helps entrepreneurs; Symphony back in action
Hola, Todos –
Margarita Laso “Vuelve al Sur” (Margarita Laso “Back to the South”) – As part of the foundation of Cuenca festivities, the “Vuelve al Sur” concert with singer Margarita Laso, marimba player Pablo Valarezo, and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Cuenca will be at the Teatro Pumapungo Friday a las 20:00. Use of masks is required for this free concert.
Cárceles, invivibles (Prisons, unlivable) – A preliminary report by the Comisión para el Diálogo Penitenciario y la Pacificación issued after 3 months of work, said that the prisons are warehouses for humans and torture centers. Not only are prisoners in charge of security as evidenced by the recent massacres, but they manage food distribution, the drug business, family and conjugal visits, the police and prison guards with everything having its price. Some of the weapons seen were better than those that the Armed Forces possesses including high technology grenade launchers. The abuses include forced prostitution, rapes, indiscriminate use of high caliber weapons, and methods of extortion to pay for practically everything.
The Commission visited 9 prisons and found criminal gangs operating from outside of the prisons and managed by families of the leaders inside the prisons. Prisoners need to deposit $120/mo. to these families to use the economato service (commissary), $50 to receive visits, and $50 for intimate encounters. Also, prisoners need to pay for safety, food (only those who pay, eat) and purchases from parallel tiendas that operate from cells and wards. Security for prisoners is paid very well with participating guards receiving monthly checks. Guards who do not want to participate are threatened. Those who can pay the most can have a very comfortable life including luxury apartments. Gang leaders and those with money can also eat very well and not face the marked nutritional deficit the the rest of the prisoners suffer. Gangs determine when and how the prisoners without money eat, including having to join forced hunger strikes if they complain. The groups most vulnerable to human rights violations are women who are forced into prostitution and rapes by prisoners and guards, blacks, LGBTQ, those of tercera edad, immigrants, and those with children. <So if a gringo lands in prison, you better be a rich gringo since many ex-pats fall into the tercera edad category. I wonder if the average social security check would be enough to buy a decent life in prison?>
Optimismo tras ofrecimiento del Gobierno (Optimism after government offer) – Both Jorge Moscoso, director of the Tranvía, and Mayor Pedro Palacios agreed that the offer from Pres. Lasso to pay $2.6 million to Nataxis S.A. will free up money for more projects in the city. The $2.6 million is a semi-annual payment to the French bank which provided the loan to build the Tranvía. The original loan was for $91 million. $41 million was absorbed by the federal government leaving a balance of $50 million of which Cuenca has made 5 semi-annual payments leaving a current debt of $37.5 million. Mayor Palacios is hoping that the feds will pay $2.6 in both junio y diciembre. The unexpected money will be assigned specifically for public works and infrastructure.
As for the deficit of the tram system, Moscoso said it is being lowered gradually. In the last few months, ridership has doubled from 8,000 to 16,000, representing $1.5 million. In addition, advertising in the train has risen to $500,000. This leaves a deficit of $5.5 million. The idea is that ridership will increase with the different feeders from the south, north and west; and it could reach 40,000-50,000 daily passengers according to the studies that were done.
He said that integration of the bus and tram fare systems could be done by the middle of the year. <Which year?> He said the problem was that the previous administration authorized the CTC to implement and administer a system not compatible with the tranvía. He said that the tranvía is working on the final acceptance of the collection system with the contractor ACTN, and once that contract is done, there will be a new integrated fare collection system. <I wonder if that system is being designed without the input of the CTC?>
El Mercurio was not able to speak with the CTC before the close of this edition. The first lot of tranvía cards from Spain went on sale el 11/4 with 2,000 sold in the first 3 days. Moscoso is hoping for the desaduanizar (customs clearance – your word for the day. You can use it for asking about your container from the US.) of the remaining 43,000 cards so that can go on sale next week. If you already have a tarjeta del tranvía, you don’t need to change it for a new one since they don’t have expiration dates.
Coworking, la nueva opción para los emprendedores (Coworking, the new option for entrepreneurs) – Coworking, which started in about 2008 in the US, is gaining ground in Cuenca. Cuencano David Ordóñez opened “La Ofi” at Bolívar 14-36 y Coronel Talbot two months ago. It is a space for shared work with flexibility to use different areas such as a meeting room, cafetería, office, bathrooms, bar, and photo studio. There is also a receptionist. Membership fees depend on use of the facilities with unlimited internet and no extra fees for electricity, water, secretary or cafetería. There are about 5 coworking spaces currently in Cuenca, each with different characteristics.
Juan Francisco Cordero will open another coworking associated with the Wissen businesses. This institute offers 7 carreras (careers) with a concentration in entrepreneurship. The coworking will provide a networking space for its students, Cuencanan businesses, and professors to apply what they have learned. Later, Wissen will add “Ventures capital” to finance projects the coworking clients develop. <Vertical integration – from student to tenant to borrower.> The advantage of these spaces is they provide a physical space for professional freelancers and can be rented by the hour <just like that no-tell motel>, month or quarter.
Cata virtual de Pacari (Pacari virtual tasting) – Grupo Entregas organized a virtual tasting of Pacari Chocolate to learn the history of this Ecuadorian product that has stood out in the national and international market. The tasting was done with 100% chocolate bars and other bars with additional flavors. Santiago Peralta, CEO of Pacari demonstrated that world class dark chocolate could be developed in the same placed as the origin of the cacao fino de aroma. <And with a virtual tasting, there was no one to see you pigging out on a second bar of something you really liked.>
Conflictos en zona de embarque tiene terminal: Gualaceo (Conflicts in the Gualaceo terminal loading zone) – The operation of the Gualaceo terminal terrestre and the need for additional stops in Gualaceo has caused discrepancies between authorities, transporters and passengers. The terminal opened on 13/4 and one of the problems is that some provincial buses whose initial and final destinations aren’t Gualaceo, such as the Sígsíg-Cuenca bus, can’t pick up passengers in Gualaceo although they can drop them off. <I think> that picking up passengers in Gualaceo would constitute a new route which is not on the list of the Plan Nacional de Rutas y Frecuencias. Community leaders are asking for intermediate stops in Gualaceo nearer the mercados and schools for parroquial buses.
And that’s all for today so hasta ?