In two recent interviews, Cuenca Mayor Pedro Palacios was on the defensive about social media charges that he has accomplished little in his first 100 days in office. “Actually, we have achieved a great deal in the last three months but much of it is not visible to the public,” he said.
The interviews focused on comments from Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook, many of which cited lack of action on specific projects and services.
“My first commitment to the citizens of Cuenca is to put the financial house in order,” Palacios said. “There were many debts and many commitments that had not been paid or funded by the previous administration. In my campaign, I promised responsible fiscal management and I believe I am providing that.”
The mayor cited a number of costs-cutting measures he has taken, including the reduction of the city payroll by more than 200, the sale of cars which he claimed were an “extravagance” and the consolidation of city of offices.
On claims that he is not doing enough to combat crime, Palacios said keeping the citizens of Cuenca safe was a top priority. “Crime is the ‘Achilles heel’ for all mayors and we are working continuously with the national and city police to make our community safer,” adding that Cuenca already has the reputation for being a safe city. He cited police statistics showing the rate of violent crime and murder dropping in 2019. “This is not the case in Guayaquil and Quito so we are pleased with current conditions but we are working to make things better.”
To complaints that he has abandoned the tram project, he claims he is “100 percent committed” to putting the train on the tracks.
“The tram is an essential part of the transportation plan for Cuenca and we are working hard to put it into operation,” he said. “Unfortunately, we inherited many unsolved problems from the old government. No operational plan for the system had been developed. No agreement had been reached with bus companies to optimize ridership. No fare had been established. And then there are such issues as the need to have liability insurance and proper licensing for conductors that were unresolved.”
Palacios said he is still not ready to announce a start date for the tram but is confident it will be run “within a few months.”
Ironically, one of the criticisms on social media is that Palacios does not report his activities to local newspapers and radio and television stations, relying instead on social media to communicate with the public. Several Tweets compared his exposure in the traditional media with that of former Mayor Marcelo Cabrera, one claiming that Palacios is not “connected.”
Palacios responded that social media is the contemporary method of communication but says he is a frequent guest on Cuenca talk radio programs.