On the Ground – Ecuador Protests

by | Oct 13, 2019 | Archives

Here’s some reports about Ecuador’s turmoil from people living there.

After our last message about the protests in Ecuador, and the gentle nature of Ecuadorians, a reader sent this note:

Gary, This is no longer a case of “gentle Ecuadorians” at roadblocks in a party mood.

I’ve lived in EC for 6 years in Otavalo. They are forcing all stores and shops to stay closed. Otavalo has been completely closed for a week. There are numerous fires on the major roads. Virtually all roads are closed and blockaded. No vehicles are permitted to pass, not even ambulances. They are taking police and military hostages. The only means permitted to travel among the towns and cities is to walk or bicycle. Cruz Roja is sending text pleas several times a day requesting that ambulances be permitted to pass to no avail. Police and military have shot and killed locals, including women.  The protestors have shut of water to several communities including Atuntaqui. No distribution of food or medical supplies are getting through. No media is permitted to report on what is really happening here in the northern Sierra outside of Quito. This is NOT your garden-variety peaceful protest.


Mt. Imbabura overlooks Otavalo.

I decided to reach out to friends who live in Ecuador and share what they say.

A friend from Cotacachi wrote this:

Hi Gary , thanks for keeping us informed of the situation in Ecuador from Ecuadorian attorney Andres Cordova and others. In my view living in the Centro or downtown Cotacachi and in proximity to the indigenous communities outside the city.

The night of the day before the strike I had left my truck out on the street to midnight about to take it to my Parquedero or secured parking lot. I thought I heard something and looked down to see that 2 young men had broken into it and were pilfering through my things. I yelled at them and they ran off. Fortunately no windows were broken or damage done.

How they got in no idea – the doors were locked. Then just last night about 1:00am I heard a noise like some one trying to kick my door in. Again I went to the balcony and saw 5 young men one trying to break one of the glass panels on the front facade. Twice he struck it with his foot and it held – that 1 centimeter glass! Almost 1/2 inches thick held.

That night I turned on lights on all the floors and could not sleep. Now I am thinking of putting bars there against the aesthetics of the building.

This is all anecdotal, but, there is this element here. I don’t see this as a right or left issue as the writer states. It is all a human issue that becomes personal to each of us. Then the subsidies are socialism to what poor people consider an extra financial burden they pay for.

In the USA one candidate is proposing a Universal Basic Income. Simply the idea that you participate in the economy and you deserve a part of it. Capitalism that does not start at 0 – as the candidate states. Is this socialism or a free lunch ? It could help to even out the wealth gap to a majority of people and be a great help to basic needs and hope to many. Perhaps Ecuador would think of A UBI based on oil to all of its people. I don’t know the answers, but, as the writer states it goes deeper. But, a mindset of generalization to a left and a right in my mind does not help in that it is dividing people against each other.

Generally on the street, in the day, I do not feel threatened.

Part of Ibarra Province  lays in a wide valley between Mt Cotacachi (below) and Mt. Imbabura.


Another friend from Cotacachi

Living in the current turmoil in Ecuador, in particular, Cotacachi, we heed the warnings of the locals and some expats who report what is occurring in other areas, and we try to stay home. Kind of like house arrest. We have walked to town a couple of times, but the food is hard to find. There are no eggs or bread.

The merchants who are opening their stores are doing so even with the threat of violence from a group of what we have heard are hostile indigenous with a gang like mentality. Very limited food is sold out of the back of farmer’s pickup trucks. The Mercado is closed as well as the local TIA grocery store base on threats from the indigenous gangs that patrol the streets with large sticks with nails.

We learned that some of our hard-working indigenous employees do not have food. In order to control the population, there have been threats that the water will be turned off. This did happen in one indigenous community as an attempt to put pressure on them to protest and continue to keep the roads blocked. We are now hearing that food will be evenly distributed to others but do not know who is doing this.

Some indigenous are being threatened with fines (I guess by their elders) if they do not protest. I have heard that some protesters are being paid $30 to $40 per day to protest. This is more than most received when working. This is a rumor, of course, and I am not sure if valid or not. I have heard that the past president and his political party are behind these protests, but who knows. Property is being destroyed, and life’s harmed on both sides. Someone with power is pulling strings to have organized this protest throughout Ecuador.

Expats and some visitors are trapped at the airport because of the protest and roadblocks. On the other side, visitors to Ecuador are also caught in the country since even though the airport is open they cannot make it past the indigenous manned roadblocks. One Cotacachi expat has been staying in the airport hotel for over a week. He is one of the lucky ones. We have a flight scheduled for next Monday, and at present we are unsure if we can get to the airport. American Airlines will let us reschedule the trip using the dates between October 8 to October 20 but will offer no refunds. Anther airlines issued a refund for a flight last Thursday. I believe that was JetBlue. My American Airlines is not the same airline I used to use all the time.

It is sad that when Ecuador was trying to promote tourism, they have now received a huge black eye. Who will want to continue to live or visit the land of discontentment?

Another Cotacachi resident wrote:


We have just received the news this afternoon that the Businesses, Mercado, Pharmacies, etc. will be open tomorrow, Oct. 12th, from
6 AM to 10AM…for tomorrow only. This came about with a meeting of all the Barrio Presidents and the Indigenous this morning. We have a house cleaner that comes on Tuesday and Friday afternoons. Earlier this afternoon, we received a message from her that “the Indian Lords will not let me pass…it’s covered up and I can’t pass…on the road to Cotacachi”. She lives in Quiroga.

Regarding violence in Cotacachi, the only concern has been that groups of Indigenous will come thru town and the tiendas that are open, force is used to close down the businesses…even Tia and Monica’s. Monica’s Super Mercardo has been open off and on…we were able to knock on her door yesterday…she let us in to purchase what she had available. It was reported that yesterday morning the Mercado would be open from 6-8 AM. Not the case, the Mercado was forced not to open but we were able to purchase some produce from the trucks of the vendors that were planning to sale in the Mercado. One ATM, as of yesterday, in Cotacachi had monies.

So, supply wise, we are doing OK. However, eggs, dairy, wine, bread, gas, etc. are now not available. Hopefully, tomorrow will be different…of course, first come, first serve.

Today was another repeat of large groups of protesters on the Panamanian Highway. We have heard that violence is still continuing in the Quito, Cuenca and other cities.

Overall we feel safe but as you can imagine, it is a stressful situation. We have been threatened by the Indigenous numerous times for days now that the water and power will be turned off! This has not happened yet.


Cuenca is a beautiful colonia city far from Quito and  Ibarra Province.

From Cuenca we see a different story as a friend who lives there wrote:

Thanks for asking about our condition. We are not near the demos and very safe. The only thing is there is a shortage of food supplies. No auto gas shortage but LPG is running out for restaurants to keep functioning!!  Take care and a big hug to Merri and you,


La Selva Amazon Eco Lodge

Another friend who operates businesses in the Galapagos and Amazon wrote a totally different tale:

Both La Selva Amazon Eco Lodge and Galapagos Habitat are operating under normal conditions in spite of the current events happening in the present moment in the capital of Quito, and other parts of Ecuador.  All passengers have been able to access both hotels in the area of the Amazon and Galapagos Islands with no problems and our services remain under the same high-quality conditions as always.


PuertoViejo Cathederal

We also received a note from our friend Floridalva Zambrano, an Ecuador attorney who lives on the Pacific in Puerto Viejo.

What we are going through is a chaotic situation without precedent!

It all started with Executive Order 883 issued by president Lenin Moreno which eliminates the subsidy to gasoline and diesel. This subsidy has been in place for over 40 years and it will affect the cost of living, but it is necessary as the subsidy benefitsthe wealthier more than the middle and lower class people.

This Executive Order, however, was the perfect excuse for the indigenous leaders to start the protests, but most of us believe they and other allies of former President Rafael Correa have been conspiring against Lenin Moreno to force him to resign or have the Congress dismiss him, which in this case of social commotion is allowed by our Constitution, so that early elections are held and Correa can participate as a candidate.

Rafael Correa is being investigated for several cases of corruption during his government

On Tuesday this week a hearing was going to be held in relation to one of the most important cases against him and several officers during his term known as “Green Rice” or “Bribes 2013-2016”.   This hearing was postponed due to the political and social unrest.  If the court goes ahead with this process, Correa can be judged even in absence (which is not the case for other types of judicial processes) as this is a case of bribery and embezzlement which does not expire.

While the indigenous group’s cause and protests might be legitimate, the chaos and destruction they have caused are difficult to evaluate yet.  Furthermore, their leaders have “sold” it to Correa whose ultimate goal is to destroy public evidence about these cases to prevent the court process coming to and end as a sentence against him would mean he can’t be a candidate in future elections.

This morning the building of the Contraloria General del Estado, the Fiscal Finance Office where most of the documents related to the cases against former President Correa were kept, was set on fire by the protesters.

We suspect that foreign criminal and terrorist groups have been infiltrated among the indigenous people. That is evident in the violence and strategic management of the protests.

A curfew was declared by President Moreno since 3pm today in the Quito and the state of emergency is also in place in the whole country. Talks with indigenous groups are being initiated and we hope this extremely difficult situation comes to and end soon.

Ecuador is financially broke and these protests are worsening the situation. However, in the midst of this turmoil, it’s refreshing to see most of our population supporting President Moreno and our democracy, even when we do not agree with him and/or his policies, and also to see our people eager to go back to work!

There you have it comments from the ground… from the people living in Ecuador.


Spanish Words You Can Use

Safety – La seguridad
Danger – Peligro
Avoid – Evita
Help – Ayuda
Police – Policía


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Here is the English translation of a few of the many Spanish words you now know and will never forget.  How long would it have taken you to memorize them?  How soon would you forget?

“Most words in English that end in ION are almost identical, just pronounced differently.  For example, action is accion, education-educacion, manipulation- manipulacion, etc.”

Some more of these words:  Combination, Attrition, Education, Vacation, Petition, Lotion, Motion, Construction, Abduction, Pronunciation, Concentration and a ton of others!

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(1) www.telegraph.co.uk Benefits-of-bilingualism.html