New mayor pledges to cancel radar contract, focus on rural areas but faces a divided city council
Newly elected Cuenca Mayor Christian Zamora said Tuesday he will follow through on his campaign pledge to dismantle 32 photo radar units installed at 16 locations in the city. The devices, which were scheduled to be activated next month, are designed to take license plate photos of vehicles exceeding the speed limit and breaking other traffic laws, with violators being fined.
Zamora said he is also making it a priority to serve rural areas of the municipality and assuring the safety of residents living near the Turi prison on Cuenca’s southside.
In interviews following his election, Zamora conceded he faces a challenge working with a politically divided municipal council. Of the 15-member board, only three seats are held by Zamora’s Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change) party. In fact, five different parties are represented on the council, including four from the Citizen Revolution coalition and three each from Hagámoslo con Shungo (Let’s do it with Shungo) and Nueva Generación (New Generation), the party of defeated Mayor Pedro Palacios.
“I realize my job will be difficult but I trust the council to respect the will of the people,” Zamora said in an interview with Radio Tomebamba. When the announcer pointed out Zamora won with less than 19% of the vote, with four candidates being separated by only two percentage points, the mayor-elect said he “had a lot of work to do.”
He added that his experience as a current member of the council will help him fulfill his pledges. “I am familiar with the legislative process and know how to work with other members of the council, so I am very optimistic I can overcome the obstacles.”
Zamora claimed that the contract for the photo radar units was issued illegally. “It was revealed during the bid process that the contractor, Consorcio Móvil Technology, did not have the technical experience to operate the system and that its units were not working in Guayaquil, where they won another contract,” he says.
He added the city’s agreement to allow Consorcio Móvil to collect 40% of fines was unethical. “This encourages the company to issue more fines to receive more money, which could lead to manipulation of the machines.”
Zamora stopped short of accusing the Palacios administration of corruption but said “something is not right with the contact, given its terms and the history of the vendor.”
Zamora also said that the current government has done a “terrible job” of serving the rural parishes of the city. “The people in these communities will tell you that they are neglected by the municipality,” he says, “and if you look at their roads and utility systems it is obvious. Previous city governments have put resources in the central city, serving the prosperous neighborhoods at the expense of the poorer areas.”
The mayor-elect also said he will pursue his pledge to guarantee the safety of those living near the Turi Penitentiary. “We will build two check-points on accesses to the prison and conduct checks to keep out weapons and explosives,” he said. “We will also continue efforts to ensure that the prison serves the purpose it was designed for, to house inmates from the southern Andean region, not prisoners from the coast.”