The owners of city buses and taxis are mounting an effort to recall Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera, claiming he has ignored campaign promises to support private transportation interests.
“We supported him because he said he would stop the tram,” says taxi driver Jorge Cardenas. “As soon as he was in office he changed his position and supported it. We were the ones who helped him defeat (former Mayor Paúl) Granda and then he became a traitor.”
Although the organizations representing bus and taxi owners have not commented publicly about the recall effort, private owners say the plan to collect voter signatures to force a recall election has been underway for several weeks. “They want to keep it quiet until we have the names for a vote,” says Cardenas.
During the mayoral campaign two years ago, Cabrera said he had serious concerns about the tram, particularly its route through the historic district. He said that money for the project would have been better spent on a freeway system to route traffic around the city.
Following his election, Cabrera briefly stopped work on the tram and requested a visit from a UNESCO technical team to see if the project violated historic preservation rules. The UNESCO team found no serious violations on its visit in August 2014, and project work resumed.
In addition to their objections to the tram, bus and taxi owners also oppose efforts to pedestrianize the historic district. “Just like the tram, this will eliminate routes we need for our livelihoods,” said bus owner Gustavo Lasso. “It is a waste of money and I don’t know anyone who supports it. We already have sidewalks for pedestrians. Why do they need the streets too?”
The owners also say that Cabrera betrayed their interests when he announced public support for President Rafael Correa last year. Cabrera ran for mayor as an opponent of Correa. Former Mayor Granda is a member of the president’s Alianza Pais political party.
One taxi driver, who is not an owner and who supports Cabrera and asked not to be identified, says the recall is an effort to turn back the clock. “Times have changed and some of the owners don’t want to accept it. The tram cannot be stopped and it is time they face reality.”
He added: “The owners have a lot of money and power, of course. We will see where this goes.”