One of the places I’m most looking forward to on this trip is a country I’ve already visited twice (on mission trips): Ecuador. Its capital city, Quito, is the most underrated place I’ve ever visited. I had no idea what it was like before I got there, and discovered it’s absolutely incredible. Straddling the equator, it enjoys perpetual springtime thanks to its elevation–a whopping 10,000 feet. The Old Town is beautiful, the people are incredibly friendly, and there’s plenty to see and do. Take the cable car to 12,000 feet and you’ll get an amazing view of the city (if a little less oxygen to enjoy it with). My video UW19: Ecuador opens with shots of planes landing in Quito (though I replaced the original bits of city-life I’d added as well with images of teens at work).
Ecuador has a typically tumultuous history for a South American country. One nice quirk that’s resulted from it is their adoption of U.S. currency as their official tender (yep, that’s where all the Sacajawea coins went). When I visited in July 2009, I took a taxi from downtown back to my hotel, and the driver had to turn around when we encountered this scene (double-click to see just what they’re apparently protesting):
I still have no idea what they were protesting with regard to the Pink Panther, unless they just really take mediocre sequels to remakes of classic movies seriously (Pink Panther Returns was opening in Ecuador that week). Today, though, the news out of Ecuador is even more dramatic. In response to word of reduced employment perks, police are rioting and refusing to work:
Ecuador’s government appeared teetering on the verge of collapse Thursday, as national police took to the streets of Quito, the capital, and physically attacked the president over what police said was the cancellation of bonuses and promotions.
The minister of security, Miguel Carvajal, said one person was killed and several were wounded, but did not offer details.
The government declared a one-week state of emergency Thursday afternoon and put the military in charge of security. The military said it will support the president and the nation’s democratic institutions.
“This is a coup attempt,” President Rafael Correa said in a TV interview from the hospital, where he had been taken after police lobbed tear gas at him.
Correa, 47, said police were trying to get at him there. “They’re trying to get into my room, maybe to attack me. I don’t know,” he said in a telephone interview with state-run Ecuador TV, referring to his attackers as “cowards.” . . .
But Doris Solis, the coordinating minister of politics, disagreed with his characterization of events. “This is not a coup,” Solis told CNN en Espanol. She said Correa was speaking with police representatives inside the hospital. Solis also said Correa would return to his office within a few hours to meet with his cabinet members.
Correa said a law passed Wednesday by the National Assembly does not cut compensation bonuses of police, as some have asserted, and he accused the news media and his political opponents of misinforming the public about the legislation. . . .
I expect Ecuador will sort out these issues in due time.