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Ecuador’s political turmoil reminds this expat of hurricanes and blizzards back in the U.S.

By Mark Bradbury

My beautiful country of Ecuador is in turmoil, not in shambles as some would have you believe, but we are definitely going through some very trying times right now. For over 40 years, Ecuador has been subsidizing gasoline and diesel fuels, propane gas and other commodities. These things have been costing the country almost $4.2 billion a year, no small number for a country that has become deeply indebted to the Chinese, and now the International Monetary Fund.

Changes to that policy have arrived, and the people of Ecuador are not at all happy with this newly declared agenda.

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Following a presidential announcement that the subsidies for gasoline and diesel would end immediately (the LP gas subsidy remains unchanged), the first to strike nationwide were the bus, taxi and heavy trucking guilds and unions around the country. Other unions joined them in support of their cause. Commerce came to a screeching halt, as roads were blocked everywhere by taxis, buses trucks and piles of debris and burning tires spread across the highways.

An indigenous leader addresses followers in Quito. (El Comercio)

This lasted a couple of days, but seemed to be settled when the government supposedly had reached a settlement for the unions to go back to work. Taxis across the country started working again over the weekend, but 95% of the buses never left the station. Local bus companies and cooperatives called instead for a second work stoppage, and labor unions and guilds everywhere have joined them.

Almost a full third of Ecuador’s population is made up of indigenous people, most of whom live in the mountain region. The indigenous have taken up the mantle to strike, and are affecting change as I write. Thousands of these people descended on Quito over the last few days, and have caused serious repercussions for the current government.

These people have been responsible for the overthrow of two former presidents; you do not want to be on their bad side! Things were going so badly that President Lenin Moreno moved his government to Guayaquil Tuesday night in an effort to get away from the thousands of protestors gathering in the capital. Guayaquil is a southern coastal city, hundreds of miles away from Quito.

Moreno has been in power for two years, and has made fiscal responsibility a mainstay of his term of office. The vice president under leftist President Rafael Correa, Moreno has turned to the right and has implemented austerity measures. The removal of the subsidies on petroleum products has triggered a revolt across the country that could potentially force him from office, like the presidents before him.

It is bad here but Ecuador isn’t burning; she’s hurting, but she is a survivalist. There are scattered pockets of violence associated with the work stoppages, but for the most part, things have been fairly uneventful in my coastal home of Manta. I’m lucky to be in a place so far from the actions taking place in the cities of the sierra, such as Quito and Cuenca.

There are shortages here at the markets, no gasoline, and some things have completely disappeared for now. I was in the supermarket a couple days ago when I ran into friend. She had lived in Florida like me, and her comment was that shopping was just like being in Florida before a hurricane. I added that it was, and it also reminded me of a pre-blizzard panic from my days of living up north.

And that’s where things in Ecuador stand right now. We’re all tucked in as much as we can be, waiting for whatever hurricane or blizzard is coming, and hoping, like always, that we will weather this storm and get back to living the way we did a week ago, before the scat hit the fan!

Viva Ecuador!
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Mark Bradbury is an expat living in Manta.

7 thoughts on “Ecuador’s political turmoil reminds this expat of hurricanes and blizzards back in the U.S.

  1. Watching from afar in the middle of a main hurricane area that survived Hurricanes Irma & Maria. Stay hunkered down and look after one another – this too shall pass.

  2. Cathie is right. I nave seen many democratic expressions in my life…all over the world. They manifest themselves in the manner that subject society’s heritage has developed. Regardless, we are all most comfortable with the template our own society has adopted.

    The scariest I saw when a student were the Berkeley Protests in the 1960s, but I was younger then and I am assured the Kent State Protests were worse. (Less than a year later I missed being killed when a melon cart blew up in Haifa during a protest there.) In Paris, they used to favor high pressure water hoses mounted in armored cars.

    This is how Ecuadorians protest. Much better than most. No pipe bombs in mailboxes or gratuitous killings by the police or them spraying crowds of 1000s with automatic weaponry.

    The problem is, without the same cultural parameters, and added to our age, conspire to make these things scary. Truth is that without a protest outlet, a culture can be far more dangerous.

    The 1960s heralded a Golden Age of change and happiness. The western world, for the most part, adopted measures during that period that have blessed us who experienced until this day. And it came to pass just after the extreme conservatism of the McCarthy era.

    1. Where it’s obvious that you have a limited knowledge of South American politics I suggest you do some reading and traveling and certainly take some Spanish courses. It’s sad when Gringos come to Cuenca and think they have arrived from the center of the universe and try to profess their limited knowledge.

      1. Thanks for your very vague and very angry complaint. It is a given that those who are part of a society have no objective perspective of it. Only locals get so immersed that they think they see significant differences among the parties. I prefer examining factors that shape history rather than the next election. But continue, if you wish, with your rage. Get it off your chest.

          1. Osvaldo, Forgive me, but you have me very confused. Where did I suggest (ever) that anyone needed my permission to voice anything?

            But now that you have opened up the subject, I admit to being appalled at what anglophone societies have done to public dialogue in the last 20 years, .

            Free speech, or more accurately, wide-ranging public expression, is vital to all democracies. After all, without dialogue, how can we progress, find consensus, jointly control our nations and our lives peacefully? But as we see on every anglo public affairs forum, we see a constant diet of inexplicable rage and hate. Too many craft their rhetoric to discourage any exchange of views.

            That is not merely and attempt to be abrasively rude, it is anti “free speech”. and killing democracy and dividing us more every day.

            I am multi-lingual. (not much credit to me as I grew up in such an environment) So I participate in different forums with different base languages. I can assure you anglophone forums are the most extreme. Can it be that anglos are inherently more immature..or is it that they have no idea of what they are doing? There are so many that START OFF HERE with their very first post trying to insult.

            I read something like Mario’s post above and I feel badly for him and for this forum. I try my best NOT to respond in kind.

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