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Mayor criticized for lack of leadership and poor relations with the national government

National and local leaders say that Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios is disengaged from his constituents and has failed to build constructive relationships with the the municipal council and the national government.

Cuenca Mayor Pablo Palacios

Following a visit to Cuenca in early January, Ecuador Interior Minister María Paula Romo said that Cuenca’s relationship with Quito has deteriorated since Palacios took office in May. “There are ongoing difficulties in communication between national officials and the mayor’s office,” she said. “We are also very concerned about projects that do not materialize. At this point, I’m afraid that the relationship is not very healthy.”

Among Romo’s specific criticisms was the delay in operations of the city’s tram system. “There is a great deal of money invested in this project and beginning service should have been a priority for the mayor’s office,” she said. “I’m glad we are finally seeing real progress.”

According to University of Cuenca political science professor Xavier Solís, Palacios lack of engagement with the national government could have dire consequences for the city. “Much of the funding for the municipality comes from Quito so lines of communication must be open and active,” he says. “As of today, national officials do not see the strong leadership shown by the mayors of Guayaquil and Quito and this affects Cuenca’s bottom line.”

Members of the municipal council also complain about Palacios lack of leadership. “Pedro is a very likeable guy but he rarely shows strong positions on major issues,” says Roque Ordonez. “Sometimes, you have to take positions that make people mad and he is very reluctant to do that.”

Councilman Cristian Zamora agrees and says it is urgent for Palacios to mend relations with Quito. “I don’t think he cares much for politics but he has been elected to a political position and must play the game for the sake of the community. At the national government, there’s a bad attitude toward Cuenca that needs to be changed as soon as possible.”

Palacios has defended himself in several recent radio and television interviews, claiming that he inherited a government in financial distress when he took office. “My first and most important job was to put the budget in order, to impose an austerity regime that should have been in place years before,” he said, pointing to cutbacks he ordered in personnel and the cancellation of projects planned by the administration of former mayor Marcelo Cabrera.

Palacios admits he should have provided more information about his plans for the tram in the first weeks in office. “Again, the previous administration left the program in a mess and there was a great amount of work to do before we could go into operation,” he said. “We were unable to provide a schedule due to unresolved issues but I probably should have done a better job of explaining this.”

Among those problems, Palacios says, were a lack of liability insurance for the system and its conductors. “It was unconscionable to begin tests with this not in place since it puts the city in jeopardy. There was other unfinished business regarding construction and operations contracts that also needed to be resolved.”

The mayor says that now, it’s “full steam ahead” for the tram. “With the problems behind us, we can put all our energy into launching the tranvia without distraction.”

Solís believes part of Palacios leadership problem stems from his lack of political experience and an over-reliance on his talents for running businesses. “He came into office thinking the city could be run like a company and it cannot. He was right to reduce the budget but he didn’t seem to understand the political, social and cultural demands of the office,” he says.

Before his election, Palacios managed large appliance and tile manufacturing companies and claimed, during the campaign, that his business background would lead to more effective government.

“The problem,” says Solís, “was that his previous experience was in very confined environments. He was successful there but it is very different than managing a large city.”

15 thoughts on “Mayor criticized for lack of leadership and poor relations with the national government

  1. I think the mayor is working extremely hard to make sure that the city continues to prosper and the tram moves forward safely – there are many obstacles toward success and in this article I hear that the mayor is taking responsibility. Let’s give him support, knowing how difficult this job is.

  2. Can you imagine having to take the tram disaster and put it together quickly, I feel sorry for him.

  3. i ask to gringos how long do you live in ecuador and much do you know about the ecuatorian politc?

    1. I’ve been here in this wonderful city 33 years and am very much in favor of Ecuadorians’ points of view! Politics, in general, is a tough subject, but ultimately it is supposed to benefit the people and not the government official. I personally feel that Palacios deserves more support and less picayune criticism, unless it is constructive and the criticizer is directly involved in helping improve things. Construir más no derribar.

  4. What did everybody expect??? Everybody knew he wasn’t a politician, and yet he won, probably in part because of that. Now people expect him to do a “perfect job” when this has probably been the scariest ride he’s ever been on. He inherited financial problems, of all sorts and the disasterous TRANVIA….It is soooo easy to criticize and tell him to “man up”, but could any of us do this job????? Do any of us want to walk a mile in his shoes?? Honestly, I admire the guy for taking this on. There will be no end to the criticism, but VERY FEW if ANY will volunteer to take his place. I support him in spite of whatever criticisms, and I hope for success with the TRANVIA too, as this will continue to be my home until death takes me away. Solis, Romo and Zamora would do well to give him a little more support and less fault finding…they certainly can afford to polish their crowns by helping Palacios out instead of making self righteous comments.

    1. 17 people ran for mayor. His win was certainly no mandate by the people. Take the helm or get off of the bridge

      1. And a city this size with SEVENTEEN candidates??? By now, everybody would be complaining about ANYBODY who won the office. Nobody is ever satisfied, but nobody wants to knuckle down, man-up, or take the helm, but everybody wants to be on the bridge. Until the ship sinks, of course, then they jump ship and start yelling, “I told you so!”. So, unless you’re willing to do the job, it is still best to be less critical and more helpful.

      2. he won under the method they use … that was the option not some other fancy you might have. he didn’t start the Tranvia but he is finishing it with all the details finally completed.

  5. As long as they don’t steal the people’s money, this mayor, the next mayor, and the mayor after that can have all the time in the world to get the Travia operating properly.

  6. Lets not forget the chronic level of incompetence with Cabrera. The tram was an ill conceived tourist gimmick from it’s inception. Why after seven years is there still no plan designed to integrate it into the City’s transportation system? Could it be that there’s no transportation system master plan?

  7. It’s too bad that you can’t run a city like a business without being a “politician”. Isn’t that what most of us want? We’re tired of the politicians who give us lip service as they line their pockets and hand out favors to their family and friends. I’m impressed with the way Palacios began cutting the fat immediately after taking office. It takes courage and strong leadership to impose an austerity regime. It’s not a popular thing to do. It causes discontent among the ranks and constituents, although it’s necessary for a healthy city budget. Just like it is for a business.
    Keep on keeping on, Mayor Palacios! Maybe hire a political consultant to kiss the behinds of Quito politicians. Politicians love that sort of thing. After all, we do appreciate their money.

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