Political Unrest Follows Us Everywhere!

Posted by Cassie, October 22nd, 2010

On Thursday, Sept. 30th, we were planning to return to Quito to meet Deborah at the airport since she was flying in to join us. We were about to leave Yunguilla when we heard that the police were on strike and the airport was closed. We had no idea whether Deborah was still on her way or not, so we decided to try to return to Quito. As we were waiting for a car to take us to Calacali, a group of people returned to Yunguilla from a trip to Quito. They said it was totally crazy and dangerous in Quito, and they didn’t recommend us returning to Quito. It is dangerous in Quito with the police working, so it was total chaos with the police on strike. The police even encouraged the criminals to wreak havoc and commit as many crimes as possible while no police were on the streets. The criminals responded by robbing a bunch of banks and supermarkets. So, we decided to stay in Yunguilla until the situation settled down. We checked our email, but we didn’t hear anything from Deborah. We were able to find out more about the situation in Quito, which was totally crazy. The police went on strike because a law was passed that took away their bonuses when they were promoted and limited their salary increases. The president went down to the police barracks to try to negotiate with the police, but it became very confrontational. The president tore open his shirt while he said: “If you want to kill the president, here he is. Kill him, if you want to. Kill him if you are brave enough.” At this point, the police attacked the president with tear gas and beat him up, but the president was able to get away and took refuge in the police hospital. Later, the president claimed that he was being held against his will in the hospital, and the police had kidnapped him. Then, the military stormed the hospital and rescued the president after a shootout with the police. Doesn’t this sound like it was straight out of a Hollywood movie? Here is a good article by the BBC explaining what happened: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11455665

The next morning, we tried to find out what was going on and whether it was safe to return to Quito. It seemed that everything had calmed down. The president was back in the presidential palace, and the military had taken control of the country in place of the police. We finally heard from Deborah. She had flown from Chicago to Atlanta, but then her flight to Quito was canceled because of the civil unrest. Of all the days to try to fly to Quito! So, she was stranded in Atlanta. She was confirmed on a flight on Tuesday, but that would be after we were supposed to go to the Galapagos. She was trying to get on the next flight to Quito on standby. Fortunately, the airport had reopened, so flights were coming into Quito again. We decided to stay in Yunguilla one more day to wait for everything to calm down more.

Saturday, we returned to Quito, and everything was completely normal. It was like nothing even happened. When we arrived, we were able to check our email again, and we found out that Deborah had made it on a flight to Quito the day before. Despite all the craziness, everything worked out okay, and we would still be able to leave for the Galapagos the next day.

We walked around the city a bit after meeting Deborah, and then, we discovered that everything was not quite back to normal. While we were walking, a bunch of armored humvees with huge guns on top drove down the street. It felt like we were in the middle of Bagdad. Then, we walked by the Presidential Palace, and there were 300 military men guarding the palace. All the streets to the presidential palace were blocked off. However, nothing was going on, and most of the activity was tourists like us taking our photo with all the military men.

Military guarding the presidential palace

Update: Here is a good article by Reuters with an update on the situation: http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFRISKEC20101004?sp=true

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