This afternoon I decided to quickly check the Buenos Aires Herald just to see what was going on in the news. I didn’t expect much, so I was totally taken by surprise to see that President Correa of Ecuador was essentially under attack and a full scale protest, possibly even a coup was under way. Immediately I delved into the story, trying to figure out what was going on. It pains me to think of another coup taking place in Ecuador after three presidents were ousted in the last 10 years alone. I think of my friends who are there, both locals and expats, and how this is affecting them. Some stories coming out of the Herald developed throughout the day, but what amazed me was that American news outlets didn’t even seem to be picking up the story until about 3 pm in Buenos Aires.
I was taken aback at first, thinking that perhaps this just went to show that people really don’t care much about Latin America, or that it was simply considered another coup attempt, aka no big news. Or maybe it was political, that South American news would report it being a coup, but American media would say it was merely a protest. Children can protest, after all, but a coup is a very serious situation, threatening democracy and rights. But once the story was up by the New York Times, I figured it was getting its due attention. I also received warnings from the U.S. Embassy in Quito to stay in doors and avoid protests.
Early reports were that the police and parts of the military were angered over the presidents’ democratic attempt to take away benefits from them. Benefits like obligatory promotions and bonuses or medals given with those promotions. As someone who lived there for a year, I feel safe in saying that they are complaining about this while they don’t even do their job. They are setting a horrible example, and the worst part is that right now the country is essentially without a police force, allowing looting and violence to reign free. At least two banks have been robbed already.
President Correa tried to speak to the troops but was attacked with water and tear gas. He was taken to a hospital where he has been under house arrest, and he has said that he feels like he’s been sequestered against his will. I’ve been checking with my friends there. In the afternoon I spoke with my friend in Quito, who told me that the streets were quiet in some parts but a mess in others. She was staying in for good. Other friends in Cuenca and Guayaquil told me that the streets were empty but there didn’t seem to be any trouble. Yet reports were that the airport was closed in Quito and military bases were taken over in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca.
As of this night one person is dead and leaders of South American nations in UNASUR are meeting in Buenos Aires to discuss the coup. The U.S. government has condemned the violence and shown its support for President Correa, and for the better part of the night I’ll be tuned into the news for more updates. But for now, it appears as though the biggest mess is in Quito. Streets are filled with people protesting against the police and in favor of the president, who is considering dissolving congress. Correa has said if they military wants to kill him, they can. Hopefully it won’t come to that.
I’ll keep you updated when I hear more about this.