Friday, November 13, 2009

Conspiracy Theories

Clear Sunny Morning

I met with Kenneth and Anne, our friends from Wyoming, at 'OchoyMedio', my favourite movie house, showing all sorts of Ecuadorian, foreign and unusual films. There is a restaurant/coffee shop on the premises as well, so we can sit and eat while we wait to see the film which was advertised to start at 7, but actually started around 7:30. We saw a collection of 'IberoAmerican' mountain films, which were shown at the Banff Film Festival. I was excited to be reminded of Banff, where I had spent alot of time as a young adult, and had wonderful memories of the place. The movies were not as compelling as I had expected, but it was fun to commiserate about our interesting energy issues.

Conspiracy theories abound. The 'official' version is that the hydroelectric power plant in Paute, near Cuenca, is out of water due to the lack of rain, and that with rain fillling up the dam, power will follow. So we all watch the heavens for rain, and feel relieved when we hear that 20 centimeters fell last night, and hope that means that electricity will be running again.

Raining in the Mountains

I have heard that the power outages are politically motivated, that Correa is trying to help Chavez, so that the latter is not blamed for the energy shutdowns in his own country, that these are 'sympathy' outages. Another theory is that the power outages are an extension of the indienous protests about the control of water. I could not quite understand the reasoning, and who is in control and what the outages are supposed to prove. Another hypothesis is that Correa replaced the former civil servants who ran the hydroelectric dam, and the new political appointees are not as knowledgeable about running the plants, and are therefore not managing the power distribution adequately. Eric heard the most likely theory; that the electricity companies are no longer investing in their infrastructure or distribution since Correa is threatening to nationalize them. I am sure I will hear more theories and explanations over the next few days.

We hear that in the area where the president lives, there are no power outages, and the populace is enraged; why should he get special treatment, and suddenly he is in the press agreeing that his neighbourhood should be no different from any other, and apparently he is now experiencing the same electricity shutdowns.

The accident rate and the crime rate have worsened. Without traffic lights, there is more gridlock than usual and often there is no movement on the streets. It takes far too long to get a cab, and much longer to get anywhere. The darkened streets make it impossible for the police to monitor the 'delicuentes' and prevent crime. In Guayaquil, the lights were out during the day and on at night expressly to manage the criminals, but the cost of running lights at night are far greater than during the day, so the outages are not saving any energy for Guayaquil.

The battery for our internet is working, and the solar panels ought to be up and running soon. We have huge flashlights and candles and headlamps and matches, so we are ready for the next moment. I did not find the schedule for the weekend, but we will manage well when the electricity goes. I have been told that this will continue until March.

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