I made my first trip to Ecuador — and South America — last week. Ecuador is a gorgeous country with great food and fascinating traditions. I’ll have more about that in subsequent posts.
It also happens to be experiencing increasing political strife with citizens openly challenging President Rafael Correa’s policies. Correa is infamous for intimidating and harassing the press, and there are serious concerns about Ecuador’s Human Rights climate under his leadership. The latest indignation is the 45% tax increase on imports that took effect earlier this month. Things are getting expensive for Ecuador’s residents. As an example, I can get a pair of high top Converse Chuck Taylors for $55 in the United States. At a mall in Quito, they’re selling for $110. (I had to check, of course.)
When I arrived in Quito, my hosts told me that Thursday, March 19, would be an interesting day. Political protests were planned against the president. Sure enough, protesters filled the streets of Quito and numerous other cities to shout down Correa’s political proponents and to express disdain with their president’s performance.
When La Republica was live streaming protest coverage on its website early that afternoon, this happened:
Suddenly, its website became inaccessible. That didn’t surprise those who were watching; the general presumption was that the government had blocked the site. But within a few minutes, La Republica was back online using a different IP address.
Later that evening, I was near one of the rally sites with my hosts, and because foreigners are forbidden by Ecuadorian law to participate in political protests, I simply observed what was happening. My hosts took the photos and videos.
The people chanting on the near side of the road are the protesters. The people on the far side of the road, waving the green flags, support Correa. At this particular location, the atmosphere was more electric than tense, but that was not the case in other parts of the city or country. We stayed about half an hour before clearing out.
It was important for my hosts to attend the protest, and it was educational for me to be an eyewitness to the political debate happening right now in Ecuador.