Following the rejection of the Alianza País choice for Cuenca vice mayor, President Rafael Correa says he has lost confidence in Mayor Marcelo Cabrera. On Friday, the city council chose Ruth Caldas for the position over Pais’s Leonardo Berrezueta when Caldas voted for herself and councilwoman Norma Illares abstained. Caldas and Illares were Pais members and were expected by party officials to support Berrezueta.
In the aftermath of the vote, Pais has expelled Caldas and Illares from the party, calling them disloyal, and accused Cabrera of violating an agreement with Correa. Cabrera claims that negotiations with Pais broke down on the issue of Berrezueta’s candidancy and that he has no control over council votes.
The effect on Cuenca of Correa’s anger at Cabrera is unclear, although Pais party officials say that it will have no impact on funding of city projects. Some, however, say there could be a significant impact. “Obviously, being out of the good graces with the federal government is not good and I think Cuenca could feel the impact on future projects, such as the perimeter freeway that Cabrera is promoting,” says Gustavo Calderon a political consultant for a Quito public affairs firm.
The controversy was unexpected since Correa has called Cabrera a friend on more than one occasion. Cabrera, in fact, was an early supporter of Correa and has said he supports most of the president’s programs.
The apparent switch of Caldas and Illares from the Pais camp means that Alianza Pais has lost its majority on the Cuenca city council. “This is another indication that Pais is losing influence around the country,” Calderon said. “I think some of the anger from Quito about this is a result of this frustration.”
Cuenca city councilwoman Maria Cecilia Alvarado said it was a sad day when democratic governance becomes a matter of “friend or foe.” Correa feels threatened by the loss of power, she suggested, and says it is ironic that the president, often a champion of gender equity, was angry because a women is the new vice mayor.
Former Cuenca mayor, Xavier Muñoz Chavez, says that Alianza País simply made a wrong calculations. “Why is the president micro managing affairs in Cuenca? Doesn’t he have more important work to do,” he asked.
Cabrera, who says he attempted to contact Ecuador Vice President Jorge Glas to discuss the problem, says he will work with the Quito government and Pais to resolve the controversy. “My intention is to maintain cordial relations with President Correa and the central government.”
Photo captions: President Rafael Correa and Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera