There have been a lot of strikes and protests lately. I get email updates from the U.S. Department of State to warn about any potential danger, and in the last week I've received at least 5 different emails warning about potential trouble. The majority of the protests and rallies have been aimed against the Israeli Embassy in Quito, and the planned rallies usually are scheduled to move towards the American Embassy after they harass the Israeli's for a while.
There is another reason for protests as of late as well, however. Recently a new mining law was approved, and it has caused outrage in the indigenous community, who feels that the mining will destroy the land on which they live. President Correa has 10 days to ratify the new law, and the protesters are hoping to get his attention in time to nullify the law. As a result, many roads, specifically on the way from Guayaquil to Cuenca, have been blocked by protesters. Some bus companies have suspended service, and already 1 police officer and two journalists have been kidnapped.
Today was a big day in Quito, as President Correa gave his State of the Union address, a protest against Israel and subsequently the United States was to be held, students protested lack of funding for education, and the indigenous once again protested the new mining law. The alert from the State Department today essentially gave a schedule of places and times not to be near the action, leaving you to wonder if you would have to actually stay in your house the whole day to avoid trouble. Now, I live in Cuenca, far from Quito, so I can't say with confidence what happened up there. But I know how it is affecting me down here, 10 hours away.
I, as well as the other volunteers in my group, are supposed to go to a Mid-service conference on the coast next week. Staying at a hotel a little south of Puerto Lopez, some of us who live farther away were planning on leaving on Wednesday to get there nice and ready on Thursday for the conference. Getting to the coast is kind of a hassle, and as a result some of us were looking into taking a private bus, which would be safer and more convenient, yet more expensive. After vacillation over whether nor not to take the bus, we now seem left with little options because of a new, scheduled strike.
On Tuesday no buses will operate and all major roads will be closed. I don't know if it is true for the entire country, but it is for the surrounding areas near Cuenca and Guayaquil. This poses trouble, mainly because it is an indefinite strike, meaning it starts Tuesday, but could last for a while. Ultimately, getting to the coast could be harder than originally thought. The expensive bus might be our only choice, that is if we can still take it. You don't want to cross a picket line here, especially if you're a group of gringos. It just shouts out trouble.
So for now we have to figure out what we will do. If the strikes are an indication of anything, it's that things are far from over. And whether or not you could call it instability, at least they're giving us a heads up. This is just part of the process of living in a developing country.