By Kendal Conner
Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, recently suffered a “near coup” as Ecuadorian police officials barricaded the city, stopping traffic in and out of its airports and major roadways. The hostile situation turned violent as the rebel police took President Rafadel Correa hostage in a local hospital for more than 10 hours, where he was tear-gassed and physically abused.
Correa was finally rescued by Ecuadorian military in the midst of gunfire and angry mobs. Although Ecuador is not always recognized as a stable government, the recent protests over possible financial cuts affecting the police force have been one of the largest since Correa took office in 2007.
Kayla McCanless, junior Christian studies and teaching English as a second language double major, spent the past two summers serving with the International Mission Board as a missionary in Quito. The news of the recent unrest came as a shock to McCanless.
“Quito was a peaceful place you could walk around and not feel threatened in any way,” she said.
The peace was immediately undone during the initial protests as renegade police filled the city with gunfire, tear gas and grenades. The government has reported five deaths and more than 200 injuries.
“I initially contacted some people on Facebook to see what was going on,” McCanless said. “It is scary the police force has that much power and they are going against the president.”
The protests were instigated shortly after Correa announced a governmental action that would bring pay cuts to police-force bonuses and compensation.
Casie Pittman, senior education major, served this past summer alongside McCanless (m)*only to keep McCanless far right in Quito.
“The whole thing is sad — Quito is home to me,” Pittman said. “The protests brought back memories of the city and the families we served. All I could think was, ‘Are they OK? What’s going on there?’”
McCanless said, “We see it as peaceful Quito, a nice place. And it was shocking that people were doing something as crazy as this.”
She also said she has never known of anything like this happening in Ecuador since her first trip to the country at the age of 15. After speaking with some missionaries and friends in Quito, both women said the greatest thing people are asking for is prayer for peace within the city and within its people.
“The greatest thing people can do is pray,” Pittman said. “Pray that the country will come together, that the city of Quito will come together and especially that the believers will come together.”
McCanless said she believes God is using this circumstance in Quito for his glory and she can see a positive attitude among the believers there. Her main concern for this situation is that foreigners will gain the wrong impression of the country.
“The one thing I want people to know is that the citizens of Quito are not hateful people at all,” McCanless said. “They are kind and welcoming. Quito is not usually a dangerous place.”
Pittman responded to McCanless’ remarks and said, “It just goes to show how much the people in Ecuador are in need of the Gospel.”
The government has arrested 13 police officers in the wake of the president’s capture. Even after all the uproar, both McCanless and Pittman still consider Quito a second home and plan to spend more time in the city.
“If it is God’s will, we are both returning next summer,” McCanless said