Things are just fine down here, guys! I just realized, reading this post, that I didn't say anything about the State of the Union in Ecuador while it was happening - probably because I think of this as a "pure gardening" board.
So, I apologize if any of you were concerned.
I was actually in the bus on my way to Quito when the demonstrations and general strike started, and was nearly turned back at the police officer's school in Tambillo, where they had blocked all but 1 of the four lanes of the Panamerican Highway with burning tyres. I was actually turned back when we got to Quito - the bus station, which is under the control of the police force (Transit division) was barricaded with burning bus tyres and lines of upset police. Since it's very unwise to be close to demonstrations where fire and arms are being used (and because my friend Maria, in the downtown, said I shouldn't even try to come further because it was even worse there), I figured it was best to just turn around and go home. So I flagged a bus marked "Ambato" (which I later learned was the last bus to leave Quito that day) and was stopped twice more on the way home by police roadblocks.
Ambato itself was largely unaffected - our military barracks simply took over the city and enforced the law alongside those police who didn't join the strike (and that was the case up until yesterday, when martial law was lifted from the country.)
I'm curious as to whether the English-speaking media are actually reporting the true cause of the unrest.... To call it an "attempted coup" as our President has is kind of laughable - anybody with any knowledge of the history of coups in Ecuador knows that we haven't had a failed one in more than 100 years of political unrest; they're always
successful and the president during a police or military coup, barring one case of exile due to insanity, always dies
. Adding to the strong stench of irony surrounding this one, is that the President, after having been teargassed at the Palace and removed to the Hospital Militar, went to the window of his hospital room, tore his shirt open, and told the massed protesters below (and here I'm translating more accurately than the English media has been) "Here I am. Kill me if you want to. Kill me if you've got the balls
." They hit him in the head with another canister of teargas, instead. If it had really been a coup, they would have shot him then.
The police and army were protesting the Law of Civil Service, which had passed Congress the previous day. What it did was to remove their danger pay, the bonusses mandated them by the Civil Code and Constitution, their maternity leave, and it regressed their pay packages to 2000 levels - this in a country with 30% yearly inflation. Dang straight they protested it! Especially since El Presidente and the Congress had just finished voting themselves hefty raises. The protests were a forceful demand to repeal that law. And, even though we've now got new Comandantes of Police and Air Force, it worked - the law has been repealed and they've been brought up to 2008 levels in pay, with a promise to get them up to current by 2012.
What everybody in the country is currently watching very closely and even betting on, is whether Presidente Correa will invoke the "kingmaker" clause of the constitution, which would allow him to dissolve the Congress and rule "by decree" until such time as he felt like calling elections. If this happens, I'm going to head for the jungle until everything blows over, because in the current political climate if he does this he'll very likely get to see what a citizens' coup looks like - the entire country would go on general strike, converge on the palace, and bodily drag him out into the Plaza de Independencia. He would surely be beaten severely, and possibly lynched - depending on the loyalty and opinion of his personal guard. Those, incidentally, would be the same people he hasn't paid in several months.
During all of this, I've largely stayed close to home (barring a trip to the hot springs 20 minutes downhill of me, to unwind), but Tungurahua province is sort of the Nebraska of Ecuador - not a whole lot ever happens here, barring natural disasters.