Local officials demand meeting with government ministers about poor highway conditions

Jun 8, 2023 | 7 comments

Cuenca Mayor Cristian Zamora and Azuay Province Prefect Juan Cristóbal Lloret are among local government officials and business leaders who are demanding to know why area highways remain in poor repair. The group is demanding a meeting within 15 days with Transportation and Public Works Minister César Rohon and Finance Minister Pablo Arosemena.

Azuay Province Prefect Juan Cristóbal Lloret

“We have not been able to get honest answers to why our roads remain in terrible condition,” says Lloret. “Two weeks ago, the district transportation director resigned when she was told that the money allocated for roads in Azuay Province and the Austro had been diverted to other projects. We want to talk directly to the managers responsible for road projects and the national budget to find out what’s going on and why the interests of the people of Cuenca and Azuay are being ignored.”

Within the past two years, the highway through the Cajas Mountains, connecting Cuenca and Guayaquil, has suffered repeated closures due to landslides and roadway collapses, according to Lloret. In addition, the highways to Machala and Loja have suffered similar closures, some lasting for days. “We are now told that studies have not even started for repairs of the Pan American highway to Quito following the Alausi landslide,” he says. “The alternate route adds three to four hours to the trip from Quito, affecting the costs of goods transported from the north.”

Zamora says the lack of attention to highways leading to Cuenca is an “insult” to area citizens. “We are the third largest city in the country and a major industrial center,” he says. “It is outrageous that the 700,000 people of Cuenca and the 900,000 in the province are treated with such disrespect.”

He adds that transportation “emergencies” come and go without solutions. “A state of emergency regarding highways requires that they be repaired within the shortest amount of time possible but when the transport ministry declared one for the Cuenca – Guayaquil highway last year, it came and went without repairs being done.”

Local business officials also plan to attend the meeting with Rohon and Arosemena. “We want to know where the money has gone that was assigned to repairing and rebuilding our roads,” says Cuenca Chamber of Industry spokesman Jorge Mendoza. “The situation is costing Cuenca millions and millions of dollars in income and hundreds of jobs. Prices of consumer goods and raw materials have increased at least 5% since 2022 due to highway conditions and the need for transport services to use alternate routes.”

Mendoza agrees with Zamora that the government’s neglect of roads in Cuenca and the southern sierra amounts to an insult. “We pay more per capita in taxes than any other region of the country and we receive less in return. At the very least, we deserve straight answers about the situation and why it hasn’t been resolved.”

In addition to Zamora and Lloret, 15 Azuay Province mayors and provincial administrators say they will attend the meeting if it is arranged.

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