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The Ecuador Chronicles - 2010-36

 

A Strike by the Police Protesting Benefit Reduction;

                 The President Visits Police Headquarters to Explain;

                                                       Some Police not in the Mood to Listen

 

10/07 - Note:  Looking back a week later on the events of 9/30/2010 it appears there was perhaps more political theatre - drama and manipulation - than substance.  Ecuador went back to normal the next day.

 

by Ray Almand

 

This Chronicle will cover recent events in Ecuador from several perspectives.

 

  • A review what happened over the past few days.

  • Information from some friends of Live Well Ecuador about their personal experiences

  • Some thoughts and reflections

  • A few Photos and links to more photos and a video clip

 

 

A brief Review of What happened in Ecuador

 

Most LWE readers are already interested in Ecuador and have probably kept up with news about recent events.  Here we will just give a brief recap

 

Ecuador is affected by the world financial situation like just about everywhere else.  The government is trying to keep major infrastructure projects – like highway construction – going while improving social welfare.  The government itself is engaging in cost cutting – in some cases including benefits to public employees.  No one is ever happy about having pay or benefits cut.

 

When national police benefits were cut much of the police force went on strike – this happened on Thursday, 30 September.  President Correa made a trip to Police Headquarters to talk to strikers – perhaps negotiate an end to the strike.  As the President was attempting to speak with the strikers, they moved against him - roughing him up and spraying him with tear gas.  Hissecurity team managed to get him away and into a building of the nearby Metropolitan Hospital complex.  President Correa is said to have a temper.  From a hospital window he called the protesters cowards, said he would not negotiate anything under these conditions – they would have to kill him first.

 

The standoff lasted most of the day.  With the police on strike there was an increase in criminal activity around the country – most businesses closed.  In the end the Military rescued the president.  Although some, including the President, described this as a coup attempt, it appears to have been more of a spontaneous reaction rather than a organized plot by political opposition.  Military and police leaders stood by the government.  That evening President Correa was back at Carondelet, the national palace.  He gave a dramatic speech from the large balcony to supporters who filled Plaza Grande.  By Friday / Saturday it seemed that things were getting back to normal.

 

 

Updates from LWE Friends in Ecuador

 

Thursday Night email from Mathieu:

 

......Correa has now been released from the hosptial after a gun shoot out between Police and militairy personnell. no one dead but injurires.  We watched it all live on the news. For me...it was a close as one can get to a civil war.
 
Now...peace and calm seems to have returned to Ecuador but no one knows what tommorow brings. Will the police be patroling tommorow?  Correa claims he will prosecute all people behind this without forgiveness.  I am going out to the farm but the road may be closed.
 
And how will this effect Correa's popularity?  Will he be strengthend or weakened?  If the police could have held out for another day...the opposition could have been strengthed and  Correa could have been gone. It is difficult to see what will happen next. I would say the country is split down the middle 50 50 in support. It is bad for business.........

 

Thursday Night email from LWE friend David who lives in South Quito:

 

I`ve been a reader of yours for a while & enjoy every word.  Very happy to hear that everyone is ok.   My wife & I live in south Quito.  Time here is 10:57.  The military has recently taken President Correa from the hospital by force.  We`ve been watching the action on tv.  He is safe but there are reports of 5 persons being hurt. We  were in El Recreo Mall this morning.  No police or military in sight.  The mall & banks were closed.  There were reports of 3 banks being robbed.   No one was allowed into the mall --only out.  Private security only.  Here in the south (Avenida Teniente Ortiz)  protesting high school students blocked southbound traffic around 5PM.  What a mess!
Once again, glad everyone is safe.

 

Friday email from Richard on the Coast:

 

Portoviejo had looting last night but that was all. Here in Manta it was just like any day. There was only about 10% of the police involved in the operation and so with the exception of banks and certain stores closing, it was a beautiful sunshining day in paradise.

 

And - Dalynda's experiences, from phone conversations:

 

Thursday -

I was on the way to my physical therapy appointment at the Metropolitan Hospital.  The streets around the area were blocked off.  I had the taxi driver drop me off and I walked - I had no idea what was going on.  I made it in to my appointment, but I saw people who seemed to be crying - I realize now it was tear gas.  I was in the hospital where President Correa was being held hostage - probably not the same building.  I had a hard time finding a taxi to take me back to our apartment.  Businesses and banks were closed.

 

Thursday afternoon / evening -

I had planned to visit Amparo this afternoon - things seemed calm so I decided to walk the several blocks to their house.  People were walking in groups down Calle Gyayaquil, so I joined a group and got to Amparo's house without incident.  The whole family was there and we of course went over all that was happening.  And finally what did we do in the middle of political upheaval - well naturally, we ordered pizza and drank a few beers!  Matt and Amparo invited me to stay the night with them, but in the end I took a taxi home.

 

Friday -

Things seem back to normal, but I decided not to go to my appointment and just stay here.  If things stay normal I plan to go back to normal activities on Saturday.

 

 

A Few Thoughts and Reflections

 

Ecuador, as much of the developing world, does not have political stability.  The country had eight presidents in the ten years before Correa came into office.  He has been in office four years – more stability than the country has had for a while.

 

Was the President’s life really in danger – it is hard to say, but he certainly put himself into a risky situation going face to face with the strikers.  Correa seems to be the commensurate Ecuador political figure – perhaps with an understanding of the Lines of History that have lead to current day Ecuador.  Consider 19th century Ecuador President Garcia Moreno.  He and Correa may not have much in common - except a willingness to put their lives on the line; Garcia Moreno for principal (President Correa - hard to say).  This resonates well with Ecuadorians.  In the end Garcia Moreno was in fact brutally assassinated.  From a political perspective President Correa may not have been in complete control of events, but he sure knew how to use the events to his advantage.  For better or worse he will probably end up stronger out of all this.

 

I have said that in its history Ecuador has avoided the violence that has afflicted much of Latin America – do these recent events prove me wrong?  I don’t think so.  Yes, Ecuador does experience political instability – but not long term civil war type violence.  Even in the late 90’s and early 2000’s when the economy was in a shambles due hyper-inflation there was not extreme violence.  Even all the changes in government happened without extreme violence.  Think about this situation.  Yes, the President was roughed up as he attempted to address a group of police protesters – all of whom had guns – but he came away alive and defiant.

 

We will have future Chronicles about the political situation in Ecuador.

 

A Few Photos and Links to More

 
President Correa attempting to speak to police Protesters - he is sitting down (and using a crutch) due to recent knee surgery
 
Being led away toward the hospital after being roughed up by police portesters
 
Military confronting police to rescue the President
 
Bullet hole in hospital window
 
A defiant President speaking from the balcony of the National Palace after being rescued by the military
 
Go here for video of President Correa's dramatic speech with translation from Carondelet:
 
Go to this link for additional photos of events in Ecuador:
 
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