Several hundred protesters marched through the historic Monday morning demanding that the municipal government reverse its decisions banning the sale of New Year’s Eve monigotes, or dummies, and other holiday items. Leaders of the group, which include manufacturers and vendors of the dummies, say that more than 1,500 Cuencanos are affected by the ban.
“The decision by the municipal government hurts hundreds of families economically when they are struggling to survive the Covid pandemic,” said Edison Salazar, who represents sellers of the monigotes. “Once again, we see prosperous members of the government ignoring the rights of the poor and those who work with their hands to make a living.”
In a radio interview Monday afternoon, Salazar said that sales of monigotes, fireworks and other seasonal products can be done safely, respecting social distancing requirements. “We are aware of the health crisis and will work within the rules but we insist that our livelihoods not be taken away from us when we are already suffering.”
Appearing in the same interview, Edison Arguello, who represents monigote artisans, attacked the government for maintaining biosecurity restrictions at a time when Covid-19 numbers are improving. “They say they are following the advice of the doctors but ignore the fact that the deaths from Covid in Cuenca are less than 10 percent the rate of July and August and that hospital beds are available for sick people,” he said. “Last week, we had less than half the Covid cases of August and it is time the officials take action to make life easier for Cuencanos, not harder. It is time for the government to open up, to restore the economy that many of us depend on.”
Some of the protesters in Monday’s march also objected to the ban on sales of fireworks, claiming that they can be used by individuals and families and do not have to attract large crowds. “My family has built fireworks for three generations and most of them are for family use,” said Andres Bermeo, adding that he agreed with Arguello that it is time to return to normal. “All we get from the council is fear, fear and more fear. They want to scare us and won’t let us return to a healthy way of life.”
In a morning meeting with protest leaders at the Tarqui Army base on the north side of the historic district, two city officials said that the ban on monigote sales was not reversible and is necessary to protect the public health. Salazar said he is demanding a meeting with Mayor Pedro Palacios.