Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Message From Your Friendly Neighborhood Embassy

Today I got an email from the Department of State with an important message from the U.S. Embassy in Quito. It's a good idea for anyone residing outside of their home country, or even just traveling, to register with the Embassy for updates on important news relating to the country they're in.

Every once in a while I get an email about the goings on in the country and warnings about traveling to certain areas like Bolivia or avoiding political demonstrations. Today's email is warning that violent crime has been on the rise lately in Ecuador and that all Americans should be alert for it to happen to them. The warning mentions that American citizens have been the targets of violent crimes such as armed robberies, home invasions, homicides, and sexual assaults. I wonder if my bus incident was a part of the armed robbery on the list.

The email goes on to say that Ecuadorians have also been targeted and are starting to fight back, demanding that the government take action. The email states, "On October 21, 2008, the Ecuadorian National Police (ENP) put an emergency operations plan into effect due to the rise of criminal activity and will increase its police presence and activity in Ecuador's 24 provinces. American citizens should anticipate police checkpoints throughout the country, and be sure to carry all required documents while driving."

If I may say so, it's about time there was some action taken for the crime that is committed, yet at the same time, I can't be too certain how effective this will really be. Things tend to move slowly down here. When you get an email like this, your initial reaction is to be a little bit unsettled, because after all, if the government is sending you a letter to warn you, it must be serious. Heading out of the house, I was almost expecting a guy to come running after me in the newly described crime spree.

But it's the same country it was yesterday. I stand the same chance as I did before, and there's no sense in thinking that it's going to just blow up overnight. When faced with these kinds of issues, you need to remember that your presence in the place is not long term, and what is it really like for the people who will remain here their whole lives?

I was checking for some news about back home and read that gang violence is continuing to rise. A few days ago a 17 year old shot at some children in a drive-by because they were from an apartment complex that was a rival to his. You choose your dangerous place to live or you're born in it. Either way it doesn't matter. One spot is as good as another if some idiot decides he wants to take advantage of you. Ecuador might have its problems, but so does everywhere else in the world. We're far from perfect.

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