If you shop at Cuenca’s Ninth of October market, you’ll find getting into and out of the area a little easier these days.
On Thursday, police began clearing the streets and sidewalk near the market of unlicensed street vendors who, according to authorities, were causing traffic and pedestrian congestion. Although the recently renovated market is located on Calle Hermano Miguel between Lamar and Sangurima, the market anchors a three-block area of enclosed and open markets.
According to statistics compiled by the police and municipal civic guard, an average of 250 to 300 street vendors were operating in the blocks around the market from January until the end of June. "We cannot allow the streets of Cuenca to be taken over by people who are not following the law,” said police superintendent Jorge Valdivieso. “The crush of vendors and hawkers has created a safety problem and it is our job to correct it.”
The police operation was criticized by outdoor vendors, many of whom claimed they were only on the street temporarily.
One vendor said he was supplying vegetables to vendors inside of the Ninth of October market. Another, Juan Rosa, claimed his rights were being violated. “They are taking away my ability to feed my family. This is not fair." He claimed he was only on the street for two or three hours a day and took care not to obstruct traffic.
Licensed vendors inside the market applauded the operation. “We pay to be in the market and the competition on the outside is illegal,” said Gabriela Lopez, who has rented a stall for seven years. “Besides this, they crowd around the market entrances and make it difficult for our customers to get in.”
Owners of other commercial space near the market have also complained. Hardware store owner Somanta Agudo said his sales suffer because of the presence of street sellers. “My customers cannot get to my store. The vendors affect traffic and pedestrians too. I’m glad to see that something is being done.”
About 120 street vendors, on a wait-list to rent space inside the market, operate legally around the market by agreement with the city. They were not affected by the police action.
Photo caption: Ninth of October market