correa: MAXIMA TENSIÓN

thursday, there was political unrest in ecuador, and it was craziness. i am/was completely safe, but it was for sure an experience!

around 11 in the morning on thursday, i was walking out of the university, and someone came up to me on the street and said i had to go back to the university, and that all the international students weren’t allowed to leave. at this point, i really had no idea what was happening. things in the university were pretty chaotic, and at the time it was hard to piece together everything that was going on… there was just lots of talk about police rioting and airports being closed, and attacks on the president. classes were all canceled, so there were tons of students around the university and the ecuadorian students were mostly all leaving campus. there was tons of traffic, airports were shut down, buses weren’t running, everything was closed, there were reports of increased robberies in quito, and internet and most phones weren’t working. i think most international students stayed at the university for a good part of the afternoon, but our program director snuck us out of the university in her car (rebel), and we went to her house and watched the news. the whole experience was so surreal, watching the news and seeing all the intense conflict that was taking place at that moment, less than 30 minutes from where i was, but at the same time, being so removed from it. i was sitting on a couch, or eating lunch, and watching it all take place on a tv… just surreal. later in the afternoon, i went back to lumbisí, where things were completely calm. it was a huge shift coming from cumbaya at the university to lumbisí, because the general sentiment towards correa at the university is negative, and most people in lumbisí really like correa. throughout everything, i was totally safe, and never felt like i was in any life-threatening danger. and it was exciting to be in ecuador when this was all happening! extreme…

briefly, here’s what went down, from what i understand: correa passed a law that increased the amount of time needed for a promotion, and taking away the monetary rewards for this promotion. although correa says that this will not harm the amount of pay people receive, and that during his term, salaries have increased for policemen. some people think this law was just an excuse for the police to act against the president. in general, correa has been having to make tons of cuts in programs, because of the economy… a lot of people are suffering.

anyway, the police and most of the military went on strike (the ones who didn’t go on strike seemed to be the ones who were higher up), and some of them rioted. since the police were on strike, there was an increase in crime and robbery- i know a couple of banks got robbed. meanwhile, supporters of correa were gathered at his house in el centro historico. correa made some pretty intense statements. (he ripped off his tie and said, kill me if you want, but I’m not changing the law.) after this, correa got attacked by the police with tear gas and burned, and he went to the hospital to be treated. he couldn’t leave the hospital for about 12 hours, because policeman were surrounding the hospital trying to attack him. later in the evening, around the hospital, there was intense fighting between the military (some of whom still remained loyal to correa) and the police, when they were trying to get correa out of the hospital. i think there was also a rally of supporters of correa outside the hospital.

eventually a special forces team got him out, and he made a speech in el centro historico, where he said that he would not forget or forgive what happened with those who rebelled against him.. i’ve heard varying numbers, but I’ve heard that 2 people were killed in the shoot out between the military and the police, and around 80 people were injured overall.

people who were in quito during all this said that streets near them were actually pretty quiet and normal. it seems like there were just pockets of violence, and that a lot of the city seemed relatively calm.

by friday, things in quito were really more or less back to normal. this was so crazy to me, that something so chaotic could happen, and basically shut down all of quito, and then the next day things are all functioning again.

…there are so many varying opinions about correa. this is overgeneralized and oversimplified, but all in all, poorer people tend to side more with correa, and richer people tend to not like him. the general feeling at the university in cumbaya is very negative towards correa and there’s a lot of tension. in lumbisí, people seem to really like him. my family likes correa. to be honest, i really don’t know that much about correa’s policies and how effective they are, and i don’t know the details about the conflict between correa and the university… i really want to learn more, and hear more people’s perspectives about politics here. (thoughts anyone?)

pero… que caos, no? fue interesante.

también, here’s some pics: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11448098

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2 Responses to correa: MAXIMA TENSIÓN

  1. Paul says:

    Thanks for sharing all of this. It was on the front page of the paper here in Champaign-Urbana, though as a friend whose opinion I respect on South American affairs considered, the protest (and what it was fighting for) was much ado about nothing–meaning that there are bigger issues at hand, and it is sad that Correa is not as respected for what he is trying to do as a whole for the nation.

  2. Paul says:

    Regarding the recent politics of Ecuador, from what I know (and most of this is a generalization, so take it for what it is worth 🙂

    1970’s: Dictatorships created a lot of economic hardships for the nation until democratic elections were restored in 1979

    1980’s: As Ecuador struggled to recover and find economic stability, its presidents accepted foreign aid and grew greatly in debt, placing its development at the mercy of economic policies set forth by the IMF (controlled by the US Treasury) and the dominant Western ideologies at the time (what you’ll hear referred to as the “Washington Consensus” or “neoliberalism”). Ecuador lost a lot of its sovereignty, and the controlling Western influences over its economic policies were not well suited for what the country needed. As a result, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer (not to mention it made Ecuador weaker as a whole and its trading partners stronger). This was the start of dissent for Western powers, as well as for capitalism in the form it was presented (note: what Ecuador went through was the same for a lot of countries at some point or another in Latin America)

    1990’s: Ecuador’s population started demanding reforms to economic policies and if a president did not deliver, he was ousted. This led to a period of instability in which 6 presidents took office within a decade until Correa was elected in 2006. Correa was well liked for his focus on the poor and unlike previous presidents, he was not a politician by trade (he was an economist teaching at a local Quito university and was encouraged to run for election by others who liked what he had to say).

    2009: Correa was re-elected by a wide margin, becoming the first re-elected president in over 30 years. If there is a legitimate knock against him (and Emily, this I believe feeds into why he is not liked at the University you are at), it is that he has grown into having an “us vs. them” mentality–meaning that if you do not agree with him, you must be against him. But there are two other main reasons he is not liked: some say he is not doing enough quick enough. My perspective, though, is that it is not easy to change and make everything better in just 4 years, especially given the nature of what has happened the later half of the past century (and you saw the opposition that took place last week when he tried to create change and make fiscal cutbacks). The other reason he is not liked (and this mainly pertains to the Western world and predominantly the rich within Ecuador) is that he is not a free-market capitalist. His economic ideology is a new form of socialism that utilizes the market but tries to regulate/distribute the wealth. In addition, he has defied the influence of the IMF, ultimately evening out the trade deficits that have plagued Ecuador since the 80’s. In the interest of Ecuador, his policies are great. In the interest of America and other global powers, his policies are bad. That is why Obama, for example, finds himself stuck in a tough position: if he releases the grip of power that the US has had on Ecuador (and other Latin America countries), that means less power and income for the US. But it is ultimately what will help the stability and growth of the region. Regardless, he may not have much choice–Correa and other Latin America presidents are starting to revolt against the status quo. That is why global powers have favored Latin American presidents who have put other nations before their own (note: this is also why the US and other powers often get blamed for a coup d’état in a Latin American country–it has often been true in the past that they have financed and supported such revolts to place a Western-friendly regime in power).

    But right now, the pendulum is swinging the opposite way than it was in the 80’s. Hopefully it will even out where what is best for all is kept in mind and relations are friendly among all nations, but right now Correa’s hard stance is what is needed for Ecuador to grow–even though he may not be making friends with the traditional powers (which is why a lot of the Latin American countries are joining together to create a new collective “power” so that they are not struggling on their own). It will be interesting to see how everyone gets along down the road, though…

    Your thoughts?

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