Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crime in Ecuador

My husband is sending me periodic articles about crime in Ecuador. The State Department publishes regular alerts. A few years ago, it was the jungle south of Columbia which was of concern. The FARC guerillas would cross the border into Ecuador to evade the Columbian soldiers. Last year several FARC leaders were killed in a cross border raid, infuriating the Ecuadorians. I have heard less about the FARC lately, they have lost ground significantly in Columbia.

Crime is increasing as a direct result of the economic downturn. Robberies and burglaries are up. Eric has a colleague, Winfred, who is a German professor of neuroscience who is married to an Ecuadorian and has Ecuadorian children. He came to his home in Quito one day to find a group of burglars at his house with guns and threatening his wife and children. They stole several items in his home and brought him to an ATM to take money out of the bank. He is scared and ready to return to Germany. 

Eric sent me an article about a murder in the Quito area today. Murders are infrequent in Quito. When I expressed my distress about the murder, Eric reminded me that I live in a city that frequently has the highest incidence of murders in the country. Some years the average is about one murder a day. The crime rarely affects my life because it happens in very specific areas of the city.  The local nightly news is a daily diet of murder, drug deals gone bad, corruption, poverty, lost souls. The numbers clearly show that life in Quito is safer, and that we are far less likely to be robbed or murdered in Ecuador. I cannot say that I am reassured, but I am not thinking too much about being a victim of crime when we  are living in Quito. I will be careful, I will follow all the guidelines for being safe, guidelines which I have to follow here as well.

The book I read preparing me for living in Ecuador was called 'Culture Shock Ecuador'. I hope it exaggerated the the dangers of living there. It advised being on 'orange' alert at all times and being ready for 'red' alert at any moment. 

Maya will be picked up and driven to school daily. I will get her to the bus and pick her up when the bus drops her off, and the school takes security very seriously. Security guards monitor the entrance to each apartment building and office and storefront,  and heavily armed guards man the banks and the more significant businesses. I am told not to carry much money with me and to modest in my attire and not 'invite' an incident. I cannot help but look like the 'gringo' that I am. 

Latin America will suffer more than others with the economic recession and there may be significant anger directed to Americans and Europeans. I wonder if that will translate into more incidents directed to foreigners. 

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