Ecuador: The Concern for Citizen Safety

Babahoyo, Los Rios-Ecuador
Babahoyo's citizens (province of Los Rios, Ecuador) marching in defense of their own social safety. Photo used under permission by Juan Pi

Ecuador's economic difficulties are said to be one of the chief causes of crime around the country. Much of it is caused by the unemployed, who will find alternatives to eat and survive, which often means committing crimes or stealing. For the ordinary citizen, it is quite different, when your car is stolen. Cars belonging to someone important in the political world, it will undoubtedly be recovered immediately. However, if the same car belongs to a blogger like Fatima Quishpe, the car can be considered long gone.

The concern over safety led the Babahoyo Chamber of Commerce to organize a march asking for increased security in the city. Juan Pi of Aguitmat Corp [es] was unable to attend the march, but explains the reasons why the Chamber of Commerce organized the march:

…Ya que los continuos asaltos ya son el pan de cada dia, y ya se que su majestad ha dicho que desde antes de su gobierno ha existido inseguridad y tiene razon, pero ahora los señores de lo ajeno son descarados, en plena luz del dia y con armas de grueso calibre amedrentando y agrediendo a los dueños de los locales comerciales y proceden a llevarse lo que mas puedan. Hasta ahora no nos ha pasado nada de eso a nosotros(aunq hace algunos años se metieron al almacen en la noche), pero a nuestros vecinos si los han asaltado en el dia.

Because of the continuing assaults are a daily occurrence, and now that his majesty has said that insecurity already existed before his administration, and he's right, but now the men are brazen, in broad daylight and with heavy caliber weapons, which cause damage to business owners and take everything they can. So far, nothing has happened to us (although a few years ago they gained entrance to the warehouse at night), but our neighbors have been assaulted during daytime.

Moving down south Ecuador, we arrive to Cuenca. This city is also in trouble because of ‘social inequalities’ which is the cause for many people to commit crimes. Andres Martinez [es] recommends two points to fight citizens’ safety:

El primero se basa en eliminar las causas que llevan a los rufianes a delinquir, a través de una correcta aplicación de justicia social, que contemple que todos los ciudadanos tengan iguales oportunidades, así como lograr una correcta reintroducción de los sujetos de alto riesgo, a través de actividades productivas.

Y el segundo, sin duda es apropiarnos los cuencanos de nuestros espacios públicos, ya que toda plaza, parque, calle, son nuestras, y son para nuestro esparcimiento e integración. Así, cuando ciudadanos honestos y respetuosos logren llegar a ese nivel de apropiación, que conlleva un control implícito de esos espacios, al sentir cercanía, creará un efecto multiplicador donde los ciudadanos seamos los verdaderos guardianes de la ciudad, y de esta manera niños, jóvenes y adultos, podremos disfrutar a plenitud de una ciudad tan bella, aunque a veces insegura, como la Atenas del Ecuador.

The first is based on eliminating the causes that lead people to commit crimes, through a proper application of social justice, which provides all citizens with equal opportunities and a proper reintroduction of high-risk subjects, through productive activities.

And secondly, it is certainly appropriate for Cuenca's people take ownership of our public spaces, since any plaza, park, streets is ours, and they are for our recreation and integration. Thus, when honest and respectful citizens achieve that level of ownership, which means an implicit control of these areas, feeling of community, it will create a multiplying effect where we, the citizens are the true guardians of the city, and thus children, youth and adults, can fully enjoy the city, which is so beautiful, although sometimes insecure, as the Athens of Ecuador.

Another blogger complains also about Fatima’s concerns on top of this post – how some officials receive special protection to the point that they may have streets closed while they eat, while civilians have to take care of themselves. He recounts an experience about the Government and Police Minister, Fernando Bustamante and Internal and External Security Minister, Gustavo Larrea. The blogger Chucky writes about this episode:

Les propongo algo, que les parece si los ponenos a los dos paraditos en pleno centro de la ciudad (podría ser por el mercado central) tipo seis de la tarde, paraditos, sin que nadie los cuide, porque me contaron que el otro día que estuvo el payaso este de Bustamante comiendo en el “Restaurante Lo Nuestro” cerraron la calle, habían diez patrulleros, viente policías, mientras a Guayaquil los ladrones se los llevan en peso.

I propose something, what about if we let them, both of them, stand up in the middle of the city (could be at the central market) let's say around 6 p.m., standing all by themselves, without nobody to look after them, because someone told me the other day that this Bustamante's clown was eating in the “Our Restaurant” and that they had closed the street. There were ten police cars and twenty policemen, while Guayaquil was being controlled by thieves.

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