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Mayor orders city back to work after violent holiday, laments historic district vandalism

Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios said city government will be open for business on Thursday, a day after a nationwide strike led to violent clashes between protesters and police in the historic district. In addition to the strike, Wednesday was a national holiday honoring Guayaquil’s independence.

Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios

Due the size of the protest crowd, Palacios said that El Centro suffered additional damage to that already reported. “We won’t know the full extent of it until Thursday but I have seen pictures and videos of many acts of vandalism,” he said. Most of it, he said, involved removal of cobblestones and street curbs as well as the chipping away of building masonry by rock-throwers.

Palacios said Wednesday’s protest was the largest of the week, and hopes the worst is over.

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Videos posted on various WhatsApp, Youtube and Facebook sites Wednesday night, showed streets littered with rubble. One widely circulated video shows traffic lights collapsing into the street after an armored police vehicle hit a cable erected by protesters. Others show young men dislodging rocks from a fountain at San Francisco Plaza.

Wednesday protesters in a cloud of tear gas.

Reacting to criticism from statements he made in two earlier interviews, Palacios said he supports the right of peaceful protest. “Yes, it is a right that I acknowledge and believe in,” he said. “I did not intend to confuse peaceful demonstrators with vandals and thugs. I am, however, very concerned about criminal acts that damage the heritage of our city and I will pursue those who commit these acts.”

He added that the city’s video surveillance cameras and facial recognition software at ECU 911 centers will help identify offenders for future prosecution.

Palacios declared a state of emergency for the city Wednesday night. Although the move has no immediate impact, it gives the mayor authority to make decisions without a vote of the municipal council if he deems them necessary.

Several injuries were reported in Wednesday’s protests, most from rocks thrown at police that hit protesters instead. One of the victims was a reporter for the El Mercurio newspaper who was hit in the face.

Other Wednesday developments

After returning to Quito from his temporary headquarters in Guayaquil, President Lenin Moreno said that negotiations with indigenous groups, transport and labor unions are off to a good start. “We are making progress and I have signaled the government’s willingness to maintain a dialog,” he said Wednesday night. For the first time he did not insist that the economic measures he announced last week were non-negotiable. “Many options are on the table and, without a doubt, I believe our problem is going to be solved very soon,” he said.

Negotiations are being coordinated by Quito’s United Nations office, administrators from three universities and the Catholic church.

A fire burns near a police barricade on Calle Sucre Wednesday afternoon. (El Mercurio)

Moreno praised indigenous and campesino marchers for maintaining a peaceful protest during Wednesday’s national strike in Quito. He also applauded their efforts of keeping “outside agitators” from infiltrating their ranks, a reference to his claim that supporters of former president Rafael Correa were attempting to orchestrate a “coup.” Some indigenous marchers in Quito carried signs proclaiming, “Ni Moreno, Ni Correa,” (neither Moreno or Correa), indicating their displeasure for current and past presidents.

● The government repeated Wednesday that it is developing plans to deliver LP gas to Cuenca by military convoy if necessary although it has offered no timetable or details. The energy ministry says it hopes the roadblocks will be dismantled soon.

● Some food trucks have negotiated passage through roadblocks while others have been blocked, according to sellers at city markets. Coral supermarkets have contracted with the military to deliver food by military aircraft.

● Farmers are appealing to the government to help get their products to Cuenca markets, saying they are suffering huge financial losses due to road blockages.

● Classes at public and private schools and universities are suspended again for Thursday.

● Taxis, which operated from Saturday through Tuesday, were again off duty on Wednesday due to the national strike. They are back on the streets Thursday morning.

● Cuenca’s city bus companies and cooperatives have announced they will resume service at a new fare, 40 cents. The municipal council is rejecting the fare, claiming the the federal government has no right to authorize it. It is asking the mayor to call an emergency meeting to protest the hike.

● For information about road closures, click here.

● For general strike information tune in to Radio La Voz del Tomebamba, 1070 AM and 102.1 FM, or check their Facebook page; or follow online news on El Comercio; El Telegrafo; El Merucurio.

29 thoughts on “Mayor orders city back to work after violent holiday, laments historic district vandalism

  1. “He also applauded their efforts of keeping “outside agitators” from infiltrating their ranks, a reference to his claim that supporters of former president Rafael Correa were attempting to orchestrate a “coup.”

    Dear Mayor: There has been no evidence of a Coup d’Etat. The civil unrest is not the fault of either Rafael Correa and/or Nicolas Maduro as the president claims.

    1. The president said that, the Mayor didn’t say that. I have heard reports directly from people in Quito that the assasins from Venezuela were there, with their guns and were coming to Cuenca. I heard that before Moreno announced the idea of the infiltrators from Venezuela. They were here yesterday in from of my building, as we live on the road that leads to Azogues. At least they had zero appearance of being indigenous people, wearing plain clothes, t-shirts and jeans and hoodies. Usually indigenous people wear something of their heritage because they wish to be heard and acknowledged AS indigenous! They had guns, I have footage of them attacking an ambulance with sticks. They were shooting at motorcycles that came near the road block. They kept bragging about allowing that man to die with the other roadblock when the ambulance wasn’t allowed to pass to treat a man who was struck by a car last week. They said they won’t leave until another man is dead because of their roadblocks. Thankfully that didn’t happen, despite their efforts trying to keep 3 ambulances out. They were yelling racial slurs against white people and people from the United States at any car that came near them early on in the day. I watched them chase away the police, calling them every name in the book and the police car hightailed it out of there and didn’t return. We were terrified all day, we had to lay low and hide as we appear pretty fricken white! In spite of our partial Cherokee Heritage. I am sure these guys were infiltrators. A man came on a motorcycle with a clipboard.. This was all extremely organized as to what they would do or say, according to the hour. They were studying that clipboard really intensely then discussing the “plan” with the others. There was nothing peaceful about these guys. They bullied a street vendor and threatened him. He left after 5 minutes. He’s usually out there several hours. A typical protest would include a message, signs, something to raise awareness. Even chanting. These guys only shot off several rounds per hour and called people names and shouting at people (bullets are cheap in Venezuela, they cost $50 EACH here, according to my Ecuadorian friends). So the bullets were smuggled in or obtained illegally. They didn’t care about any cause save for terrorizing my neighborhood, keeping people from the gas station and getting drunk and fighting each other. Does this sound like natives to you?! I’m sure President Moreno had information about infiltrators.. Plus the tweets from an exiled Correa were telling as well.. when he said Moreno is a traitor who’s done and that he’s coming back, was it?! I had inside information from Ecuadorian acquaintances in Quito about these guys being Venezuelan assasins headed our way. I think I got a good look at them yesterday. Not to mention the ACS Quito.. News from the United States Embassy sent out a dire warning report about “Multinational Infiltrators” in the Violent Demonstrations and to stay inside and avoid travel within cities it to cities to stay safe. They said Cuenca was on high alert, level 4, whatever that means.

      1. “They had guns, I have footage of them attacking an ambulance with sticks”.

        This is hilarious. Keep it up. I really need the laughs, today, as my pet dog died and I am very depressed.

        1. You are right- it is funny! until you are the one wondering ” why is this person shooting at me ” as you run for your life!

          Hopefully the story is Fabricated. But if true, hopefully these criminals go away. Sigh, Cuenca was soo nice about 9 days ago.

  2. Bus service resumes in Cuenca with ticket increase

    “The morning of this Thursday, October 10, 2019, the Chamber of
    Transportation of Cuenca, announced that the operation of the urban
    transport service is resumed with an adjustment of the passage of 10
    cents, that is, it now costs 40 cents.”

  3. “most from rocks thrown at police that hit protesters instead.”

    During a broadcast of CNN en español yesterday the protesters in Quito were intentionally throwing rocks at the reporters as they were doing their jobs . It was Correa who engendered the hate against media organizations and free speech in Ecuador and it was his people in the streets destroying property and throwing rocks at reporters during that broadcast. I would imagine it brought a smile to the Antifa expats living in the San Joaquin sector.

    1. Suggesting a plan to eliminate indigenous world wide is absurd and it sounds like you have a big chip on your shoulder

      1. Look around you. Isn’t that what is happening? Look at Europe. Of course I have a chip on my shoulder. I took my PollyAnna glasses off.

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