In a significant political shift, Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera announced on Tuesday that he supports President Rafael Correa. The announcement came in the form of a document the mayor handed Correa at a meeting of 500 local government leaders in Cuenca’s Pumapungo auditorium.
The announcement breaks Cabrera’s alliance with Azuay Prefect Paul Carrasco. The two had criticized Correa’s policies toward local governments ahead of the January election in which Cabrera defeated Mayor Paúl Granda, a member of Correa’s Alianza Pais party. It also means that Cabrera will drop out of a coalition of non-Alianza Pais mayors, including Guayaquil’s Jaime Nebot, who oppose Correa.
Carrasco said he was disappointed with Cabrera’s decision but said the two would continue to work together. “I think the change hurts the position of the city of Cuenca, but that’s just my opinion,” he said in a radio interview after the mayor’s annoucement.
The document Cabrera gave Correa, titled Gobierno Autónomo Descentralizado de Cuenca, voiced support for many of Correa’s policies and projects and said that the city of Cuenca looks forward to working more closely with the president. It did, however, contain a clause that, in the case of mining projects within municipal limits, the city expects the national government to protect water quality and community water rights.
Cabrera, who has described himself as “a man of the left” and who supported Correa in the 2006 election, said he acted in the interests of the city of Cuenca. “Cuencanos elected me to manage the city’s resources and to carry out projects beneficial to the city,” he said.
The political change of heart could have benefits for Cabrera and Cuenca in the form of additional project funding. In particularly, Cabrera needs money for a freeway that he says is needed to divert traffic from the city center. The project cost is estimated between $500 million and $600 million.
Cabrera, who once angered Correa by suggesting that the route for the city tram system, currently under construction, might change, has since said that it will follow original plans. The project was developed during the Granda administration and was a point of contention during the mayoral campaign. “We can put the tranvia (tram) controversy to rest,” said an advisor to Cabrera. “There may be some changes but the route will not change.”
Photo caption: Cabrera and Correa shaking hands during a meeting on Tuesday; Photo credit: El Tiempo.