As opposition to Cuenca’s new light rail system mounts, its leaders are accusing new Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera of betrayal. Project opponents, almost all of them property and business owners in the historic district, say that Cabrera had campaigned on promises to change the tram route from the one chosen during the administration of former Mayor Paùl Granda.
Opponents have held several rallies in El Centro parks and plazas and dozens of signs opposing the project have popped up along the proposed Gran Colombia and Mariscal La Mar route.
Opponents say that tram construction will hurt their businesses and that its operation will cause structural damage to their property. Some contend that the train will change the character of their neighborhoods.
Cabrera says he never said he would stop the project or even change the route. “I said that I had problems with the route through the historic district and that we would study it,” he said. “It is not my project but the contracts were signed during the past administration and I am obligated to carry them out. My hands are tied. I have followed through on the promise to study the route.”
Cabrera also says that tram opponents should have been more vocal during the planning stages of the project. “The project started three years ago. That’s when the they should have voiced their concerns. Now, it’s too late,” he said.
A report from a UNESCO team that visited Cuenca last week is due in September and it is expected to include comments on the tram, although members of Cabrera’s staff say it will not make any recommendations on the route. “We don’t expect that it will have any bearing on construction,” said a spokesman. “UNESCO does not get involved in local politics.”
The spokesman cited a previous study that showed that the tram operation will cause less damage, pollution and noise than the buses that currently run on Gran Colombia and La Mar. “One day, I think the residents who are protesting will realize that the tram is a benefit,” he said.
Photo credit: El Tiempo.