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