Ross Brown & Larisa Zinder/The Santiago Times Staff
SANTIAGO – The mayor of Arica, Gerardo Espíndola, on Wednesday expressed his concerns about despair and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in the Chilean port city.
“This is a trading city. The center is full of people. Many people were walking in the streets, many people grouped together. They are not grouped or walking because they are irresponsible, but because they are desperate not only for the quarantine, but also for the pandemic itself. It has generated unemployment and people are lining up to pawn or sell their jewelry,” said the mayor, in an interview with CNNChile.
“People are queuing in long lines in Arica, with their televisions and household supplies that they are pawning. Informal trade grew a lot, not only in the center, but also in the towns,” he added.
COVID-19 cases ‘on the rise’
About the rising number of COVID-19 cases, a total of 453 till date, Espíndola said: “We are concerned about what is happening today, without quarantine (in the commune).”
“In two weeks, we will have super high rates of infection and a precarious health system, such as that of Arica, will be collapsed,” he warned.
In Arica and Parinacota, the use of critical beds rises to 68 percent. To date, 4,426 PRC exams have been performed in the region, of which 4,359 have been processed.
The mayor also referred to the announcement by President Sebastián Piñera, who this Sunday said that the government will deliver 2.5 million boxes of food to the most vulnerable families in the country, in order to better cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
Espíndola stressed that the necessary resources must be delivered so that citizens can comply with preventive and mandatory confinement. “Deep down, if they send you to the house to be locked up … fine! Stay locked up, but that the State gives the minimum guarantees not to starve,” said the mayor.
He claimed that the Community Development Directorate (Dideco) of the Municipality of Arica collapsed after the information was revealed. “We had crowded people asking for and demanding the boxes that they had heard on television. They misunderstood the message that the president gave,” he further said.
La irresponsabilidad del anuncio de Sebastián Piñera de entregar cajas de mercadería, generó una aglomeración de personas desesperadas en nuestra Dideco. Como municipio no hemos recibido NINGUNA CAJA, ni tampoco información de como se repartirán estos recursos. #Arica pic.twitter.com/nASWi8jokO
— Gerardo Espíndola (@Gerardo_Arica) May 19, 2020
The mayor then emphasized that, “for Arica, these boxes are not going to arrive. What the Government did with Arica was to take a project that we had been working on since April 4, with boxes that were already committed. It was an initiative of the municipality and the Regional Council. We gave $900 million to the Municipality and, for a reason that we do not know, it took more than a month and a half to distribute those boxes.”
The mayor explained that the government’s announcement will not benefit his commune, since they will only bow to what they were already doing as a municipality.
Peruvians stranded in Arica
In addition, he expressed his concern about more than 1,500 Peruvian citizens who hope to be able to return to their country through the border crossings.
In latest development, Peruvian Consulate in Arica announced Thursday that the process of their repatriation includes three stages and will begin on Saturday, May 23 at 6:00 a.m., the date on which Peruvian citizens staying in hotels contracted by the Consulate will be transferred. Then, on Monday 25 at 8:00, those who are destined for the city of Tacna will be received at the International Terminal, while on Tuesday 26, those who are destined for other regions of Peru will be able to travel.