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News from Ecuador: Volcanic Activity and Strikes

Ecuador is living a difficult situation those days. Summed to a general strike by diverse groups upset with President Rafael Correa started on Thrusday 13th, the Cotopaxi Volcano has began its activity with two minor explosions on Friday 14th.

Smoke from Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

Ecuador declares state of emergency over Cotopaxi volcano activity

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa on Saturday declared a state of emergency following increased activity the day before at the giant Cotopaxi volcano, giving the government greater leeway to mobilize financial resources in the event of an eruption.

Two minor explosions on Friday at Cotopaxi, located about 70 kilometers south of Quito, led to a precautionary evacuation of small towns in the center of country. “We declare a state of emergency due to the unusual activity of Mount Cotopaxi,” Correa said during his weekly Saturday address. “God willing, everything will go well and the volcano will not erupt.”

The move allows the president to immediately mobilize security forces throughout the country and lets the government block publication of information related to Cotopaxi. The state of emergency may not exceed 60 days. Correa said that about 400 people have been voluntarily relocated to shelters after the explosions and expulsion of ash surprised nearby residents on Friday.

The Environment Ministry closed the Cotopaxi National Park for a week as a precaution. Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest active volcanoes and is popular with tourists.

People with flags on strike in ecuador

General strike against President Correa

A general strike against President Rafael Correa virtually paralysed Ecuador’s capital, provincial cities and major highways on Thursday 14th and violent clashes broke out between protesters and police in several cities. The indigenous groups are upset by Correa’s refusal to consult them on mining and oil exploration on traditional lands. Union activists are angry at a new labour code that they see as stripping them of freedom of association and protest. Business people are upset by new taxes, including import tariffs and a 75 percent tax on real estate sales and inheritances that Correa announced but then suspended after a public outcry, the whole country is protesting against a new policy  that would permit the populist leader to run for office indefinitely.

Indigenous protest leader Carlos Perez said the strike would not end until Correa takes heed to citizens’ complaints.

The strike has caused mayor delays on the route Quito/Baños/Rio Bamba and Quito/Cuenca because of the roads blocked with tree trunks, rocks and burning tires. The military force is working on clearing the streets, but during the weekend many travellers were forced to leave their transportation and walk through the barricades to get on a different bus on the other side.

We strongly suggest that you avoid getting caught up in the marches and protests, as there is always the possibility that they could get out of hand (although these types of protests are generally non-violent).

If you are travelling to Ecuador please get in contact with us for more info.

Sources: Fox News / Reuters