Here in coastal Ecuador we enjoy a simple life. On our small hobby farm we collect fresh eggs each morning along with oranges, limes, grapefruit, or lemons for squeezing into fresh juice. We enjoy a fresh cup of coffee while surveying the new growth in the flower garden filled with butterflies, hummingbirds, and birds. A bicycle ride, walk on the beach or malecon, and chat with neighbours and its time to think about lunch. After lunch and a fresh tropical cocktail we seek some quite time in the hammock swaying in the gentle ocean breeze.....
The last couple of months we have undertaken a project of organizing and co-ordinating a six week field study program for seven senior University tourism students from Canada. Hopeful that the project outcomes would assist local community residents with sustainable employment opportunities and ultimately help in reducing poverty. It was a wonderful experience for everyone until the final week when we were robbed of several laptops, digital cameras, blackberry cell phones, wallets, backpacks, and a lot of the students work & photos ! Any tourism promotion gains that might have been made for the community were destroyed in that single instant !
Normally our crime is not officially reported in the newspapers - initially we found this a refreshing, positive change until we discovered the reasons for this. Our local newspaper is mounting a campaign in order to get the authorities and local citizens attention to the need for action. " Bahia has lost its reputation of being tranquil without the influence of crime " This past week several more homes in Bahia have been burglarized, and visitors robbed on the beaches.The community is organizing neighbourhood watch patrols, installing video surveillance in the streets, and installing " panic or emergency " buttons dispersed throughout the city.
A controversial subject, and obviously relative to your personal experiences, theft is very common in Latin America and currently there is no fundamental reason for that to change. Theft of items valued at less than $600 US is not even considered theft ! A recent newspaper survey reflects 67 % of Ecuadorian people, and 72 % of foreigners surveyed had been robbed with the use of physical intimidation. The wide disparity in income levels creates the environment and with the lack of any law enforcement ( police ) and a credible judicial system it further exacerbates the problem. As citizens take the law into their own hands, forming vigilante groups and employing assassins for several hundred dollars.
Our largest metropolitans of Quito & Guayaquil have been placed under "military control" by the president in an effort to reduce violent crime.
Ecuador Tourism Safety Information
In Quito's upscale mall Quicentro 7 armed men opened gunfire when robbing $ 80 k from an armoured service vehicle. In the fiasco of gunfire 6 innocent shoppers and two guards were injured, and one guard was killed. This was all captured on vidoetape. The perpetrators were apprehended and interrogated in court for several hours and then released !!!! The justice system here is corrupt and failing the citizens of Ecuador miserably.
Ecuadorean villagers have asked the Canadian Court in Ontario to enforce the $18.3 -billion judgement won against Chevron Corp. over oil pollution caused in the Amazon.
Late last Thursday evening at midnight on the beach just a few miles south of here ( Punta Bellaca ) a community patrol officer called for police assistance for some irregular activity he spotted on the beach. By the time help arrived there were numerous " coolers " scattered amongst the rocks but the people had left by boat. The police discovered 1.5 tons of cocaine !
On May 13th a Mexican plane crashed into a hill near San Isidro ( about 45 km north ) In the aircraft they found $1.5 million in cash. Three days later police discovered a cocaine laboratory and seized a half ton of cocaine.
In the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, England Julian Assange seeks political asylum.
Trust is fundamentally missing in this culture in all social levels, all walks of life, even amongst good friends. It makes it a very challenging environment in which to do business or live. The " gringo tax " is applied daily to most items here. There are many foreign newcomers who unfortunately have no idea of the challenges and adjustments that lay ahead of them. Lack of trust is often one of the fundamental reasons many of the newly arrived, naive, disillusioned retirees return to their home country.
As long as we stay within our property walls, and eliminate all interactions with others it is a simple life indeed ! ? !
Thought provoking article on crime and corruption in Ecuador