Chaos in Ecuador

As promised I am going to share a little about my experience of Ecuador’s chaos over the past one and a half weeks. If you would like to learn more factual information, check out the links in my last blog post. As an important development occurred since then I am sharing more articles here with updated information: 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/10/14/heres-why-raising-gas-prices-leads-violent-protests-like-ecuadors/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/ecuador-indigenous-president-open-talks-over-protests/2019/10/13/f3c5b25c-ee17-11e9-bb7e-d2026ee0c199_story.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/ecuador-protesters-cautiously-optimistic-deal-gov-191014222937911.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/14/ecuador-protests-end-after-deal-struck-with-indigenous-leaders

A church on a hill in Cuenca…one has a beautiful view over the city from up there

Here is my individual perspective on what happened.

On Wednesday evening, the 2nd October I received a message from my personal supervisor informing us about a national strike and limited public transportation. Spanish classes (which take place in Cuenca) were cancelled for tomorrow.

On Thursday, the 3rd October, I went to my apprenticeship as usual. I heard talks about something to do with fuel and a strike of public transport, but did not really understand what was going on. Classes were cancelled, my host dad could not go to work because he needed to take the bus and there was some information about protests in big cities. I was told by my supervisor to be aware of riots and not get involved in any political activity. In the evening, I received another message: The government is going to involve the military. We were supposed to only leave our cities with our host families. Apprenticeships were cancelled. Don’t go to any areas with lots of people. Videos from the violence in Cuenca started surfacing. I was in Cuenca on Tuesday and everything was normal. The contrast seemed surreal.

Friday, the 4th of October: Global Citizen Year initiated the first step of the emergency response protocol. We are on standfast, meaning we aren’t allowed to leave our host communities.

Saturday, the 5th of October: Intra-city buses started working again. We receive a message that the strike has ended. We are still on standfast. We have to be in our homes by 6:30pm.

Sunday, the 6th of October: Spanish classes are cancelled for the next week, apprenticeships will be on a case by case basis. We are instructed not to join any protests, be close to roadblocks or marches. I went on a walk with my host family and discovered the remains of roadblocks: burned materials on black streets. Until now I thought nothing had happened in my city.

Stairs in the middle of Cuenca leading down to the river

Monday, the 7th of October: I go to work, the intercity buses are working again, things seems to be going back to normal.

Tuesday, the 8th of October: I don’t work as I would usually have had Spanish classes. Intercity buses stopped working again. We are still on standfast. Debrief circle 2 (a 3 day retreat which was supposed to happen from Wednesday to Friday) is cancelled. My city is out of gas and one cannot buy more. My host family had enough gas for cooking, but not enough for warm showers. In the evening, my host mum and sister come running back to the apartment. They were just out, but suddenly a protest started. All shops closed down immediately, the streets are empty. The indigenous have come to protest in Gualaceo.

Wednesday, the 9th of October: I do not go to work as more protests are expected. During the day my host sister shows me a video on Facebook. Maybe between an hundred and three-hundred people are standing in front of the municipality where I work and are shouting. Later I hear noises in the street and my family runs to my balcony to observe the march of the same people along a street perpendicular to mine.

The river running through the middle of Cuenca

Thursday, the 10th of October: My apprenticeship supervisor tells me not to work until the government found a solution for the situation. The news show is running on the family TV and is broadcasting the violence in cities like Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. I am getting used to cold showers. 

Friday, the 11th of October: My family is at home and is waiting for a solution, indigenous people are marching, people in Gualaceo and smaller cities are protesting. Some cities are cut off by roadblocks and are experiencing food shortages. 

Saturday and Sunday, the 12th and 13th of October: There seems to be no soon end or resolution. Food shortages are also hitting my city. The markets are empty and the little food which is sold is more expensive than in Germany. Sunday evening: Talks between indigenous leaders and the government are happening in Quito. I get a call from my friend at 10pm. IT IS OVER! The president has agreed to revoke his decision, strikes are over, classes are still cancelled tomorrow, but things should go back to normal. My apprenticeship for tomorrow is already cancelled.

Monday, the 14th of October: Me and my friends celebrate our freedom by visiting each other in our cities using the functioning buses. Relief and happiness are felt everywhere. I have Spanish class in Cuenca tomorrow. The debrief circle is set for next week. Standfast is over.

The big cathedral in the center of Cuenca

I personally only felt the effect due to my cancelled apprenticeship in the beginning. The hope was everything would go back to normal after the first weekend. However, after Tuesday no one could really see an end to this. Governments aren’t known for revoking their decisions. I only started getting a better picture of the chaos of the country, when the protests and shortages came to Gualaceo and I was told it was best not to leave my house. I never felt unsafe at any point, enjoyed having full liberty over my entire day and filled it with reading, sleeping, yoga, workouts, Netflix and Youtube and going on walks with my host family. However, I was getting increasingly worried about what was going to happen in the long term. No one knew when the situation would go back to normal. If we were experiencing food shortages after a week, what would happen after two or three weeks? People were worried about their livelihoods as they could either not reach work due to the strike or roadblocks. My host mum was very worried about her sister who lives of selling her fruits from the coast and couldn’t sell anything due to the strike. I did not want to be locked in for another few weeks. Aside from these worries, I was also kind of excited and happy to experience a political situation like this first-hand. I sourced my information about what was going on not only from the media, but also explanations by my host family, accounts of friends about their cities and my own observations.  An entire country in chaos, I knew what was going on, could be agitated about the lack of importance given to the situation by Western media, could see how indigenous communities rose up to a government and in the end witness how a government actually changed their mind. I am used to politicians using the most ridiculous arguments to defend their position no matter what and never ever we willing to change it. A government agreeing to revoke such a big decision after talks with indigenous people and agreeing to form a committee to find a better solution to repay the debt still is astonishing to me. Overall, these past one and a half weeks definitely were a worthwhile experience and I was lucky enough to not be seriously affected. It allowed me to look at issues from different perspectives and reflect on my personal life here and in Germany/UK. I am happy though that the situation is normalizing again for everyone’s sake. 

What I love about the sierra region is that you can always see the mountains, even if you are in the middle of the city

Hasta luego!

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