In his first press conference, Cuenca’s new mayor, Cristian Zamora, shared his plans regarding last minute hires by the previous administration, government funding for the tram and his signature issue, what he calls “the biggest robbery in the history of Cuenca.”
Cristian Zamora assumed the Mayor’s Office of Cuenca on Sunday, May 14th, and in his first press conference said that he is determined to follow through on his pledges to terminate the contentious radar contract and to hold President Guillermo Lasso accountable for paying the liabilities of the tram.
Zamora has also stated that he plans to begin his tenure by revoking contracts for individuals who joined the Municipality between January and February of this year.
Below are Zamora’s responses to the questions raised during his press conference.
As you assume the role of Mayor of Cuenca, how would you say the transition process went?
The transition process commenced the day following the announcement of the election results, but it was not until a month and a half later that the first meeting took place. Following that, both commissions seemed to work effectively and provided some valuable information. However, when additional information on specific topics was requested, in order to gain deeper insights, it was not forthcoming.
How much time do you anticipate spending on resolving the accounts?
The first week of my administration will primarily involve organizing and structuring the team and setting our plans into motion, in order to get a better understanding of the issues at hand. Subsequently, I plan to allocate no more than fifteen days for each department and management team to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of our situation.
Can you confirm if there have been any recent, last-minute appointments?
Currently, this is a piece of information that has not been disclosed. Once we assume the administration, we will assess the situation and determine the extent of any changes made. However, I have received unofficial information indicating that there may have been a significant increase in the number of people on the payroll.
In the event of any excesses, are you considering making cuts?
Without a doubt. I am committed to respecting the contracts of those who have been employed over the past two or three years, until their contracts expire in December. However, I plan to immediately terminate the contracts of individuals who were hired at the start of this year or after the electoral results. These individuals, totaling approximately 236, were hired recently, and their employment is unfair to others who have been with the municipality for a longer period of time. In general, the current size of the municipal bureaucracy is excessive and needs to be addressed.
Your main campaign issue was canceling the contract for the new radar systems. However, the lawyer representing the private consortium involved in the contract has indicated that he intends to speak with you. According to him, the contract is legal, and there is no valid reason to cancel it. What is your response to this statement?
I intend to have a conversation with the Mobile Technology Consortium to arrive at a mutually agreeable termination. The Comptroller’s report, released two days ago, clearly indicates their direction in the process. Continuing to defend their actions would require one to ignore the evidence presented, and I believe that is an untenable position to take.
What is the deadline for canceling the contract? On Antena Uno radio, you stated that if you were unable to do so, you would resign from your position.
We anticipate deciding on the matter within five to six weeks. As I have consistently maintained, this contract is corrupt and illegal, serving only to line the pockets of a select few while harming others. Those who arranged it did so with the intention of benefiting themselves at the expense of others in both this life and the next. It represents the most significant theft in Cuenca’s history.
Can you elaborate on the selection process for Carlos Vásconez as the Director of Culture and Darío Ordóñez as the Manager of EMOV in your administration?
The list of the individuals whom I have invited to join my administration, may change, as I plan to hold a press conference where I will announce the team of dedicated women and men who will work for the betterment of the city. We are in the process of creating a webpage where each position and the corresponding name and resume will be displayed. I will allow a period of approximately eight days for people to challenge these names as I cannot possibly be aware of everyone’s past. If someone has a proven history of acting against the public trust, they will be automatically removed from consideration.
How do you plan to manage the election of the Vice Mayor within the Cantonal Council? Can you share who you intend to vote for? We recently observed a councilor with ties to Pedro Palacios (the outgoing mayor) step down from their position, and now another from Pachakutik has taken their place.
I have decided to vote for a woman, and my approach will be Solomon-like in nature. I will support the colleague who has received the most votes during the session because they will have the most extensive support. I want to avoid making things complicated for myself. I am meeting with all the candidates and inquiring about their expectations regarding their work within the Municipality. I am interested in knowing what projects they have in mind concerning legislative matters.
During your campaign, you stated that you would prohibit any prisoners from other provinces from being transferred to the Turi prison. What legal basis do you believe gives you the authority to do so?
The issue of the Turi prison is a matter of defense for Cuenca, and those who wish to pursue legal challenges are free to do so. The SNAI, judges, and the mayor, as the owner of the property, are all competent authorities. By enforcing the terms of land use and occupation, I will ensure that the original agreement, designating the prison as a regional facility, is respected.
Is there a possibility of a conflict arising with regards to a matter of national security?
As for a possible conflict with national security, that is a matter for the President of the Republic to address. I will simply enforce the original agreement, and if anyone wishes to engage in gamesmanship with Cuenca, I will not hesitate to cancel the agreement.
How will you address the issue of the President of the Republic failing to pay the liabilities of the tramway, and what will your relationship with him be moving forward?
During the President’s visit to Cuenca, I had the opportunity to discuss the issue with him, and he promised to provide assistance. Following that, I met with the Vice Minister of Finance, who informed me that they are currently preparing a draft presidential decree to address this issue. They have indicated that this document will be ready by the end of May and will facilitate the cancellation of the debt with the French credit.
Do you believe that the President will follow through on his promise?
As Mayor, I have a responsibility to adhere to proper protocols, and I made arrangements based on the President’s assurance. However, if we do not see any progress, we will explore alternative methods, such as arranging meetings, or even visiting Carondelet with representatives from Cuenca. As a last resort, if necessary, we will take further actions to ensure our voices are heard.
What is the first significant action you plan to take as the mayor of the Municipality?
The hospital issue— patient’s waiting forever for treatment— is a serious matter. I have talked with authorities from El Valle, Baños, and Ricaurte, and we have identified suitable land to build a new hospital. I will work on securing the necessary funding, and those who doubt my ability to do so can join me in the front row when we cut the ribbon.
What about the issue of replacing and closing the airport for 3 months?