Representatives of several Cuenca neighborhoods say they are willing to wait for paved streets, community centers, and improved parks if it means the tram will be completed on schedule. They made the announcement Tuesday in press conference in Parque Calderon.
Major infrastructure upgrades are scheduled to begin soon in poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of Cuenca, including street paving, construction of community centers, and repairs to sewer and water systems. Funding for the work will come from a $60 million loan from the Latin American Development Bank (CAF).
“We can wait for our work,” said Hernan Diaz, president of Cañaribamba parish. “The biggest concern of my neighbors right now is finishing the tram. The disruption to bus schedules and the traffic jams due to construction are making life hard for our people. This is an immediate problem that affects all of us.”
The suggestion of using the CAF money to help cover a $35 million shortfall in the tram budget was made two weeks ago by Ecuador’s finance minister and is supported by President Rafael Correa who insists that the federal government will not provide additional funding for the project.
Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera says that loan requirements from the development bank require that the money be used only for neighborhood improvements. “I appreciate the suggestion but, at this point, we cannot change the application of the funds.”
Earlier, Cabrera said that he would find the additional funding for the tram and that the project will not be delayed. Funding is in place for all work through the end of the year, he says. “We will need additional funds in early 2017 which means it can come from next year’s budget if necessary.”
An employee in the mayor’s office who asked not to be identified said that the fund transfer suggestion is politically motivated. “The people from the parishes are Alianza País members and are only trying to embarrass the mayor,” he said. “They are under instructions from País and Correa and don’t really represent the people of their neighborhoods.”
Cabrera defeated former mayor Paúl Granda, a País member, in the 2014 election.