1. Ecuadorian case
In April, we were all shocked by videos posted on social media, showing dozens of dead bodies lying on streets of Guayaquil, Ecuador´s largest city near the Pacific coast. It was one the most horrible and painful scenes that I´ve ever seen in my life. The public services and people of Ecuador were not prepared to deal with a sudden and massive propagation of Covid-19 in such a short period of time, and all the hospitals, mortuaries, funeral homes and cemeteries were immediately collapsed. Desperate people started calling 911 for their relatives dying or dead in home, but they couldn´t get answer in many days while the dead bodies were left decomposing inside homes. That´s why we witnessed so many Covid-19 victims abandoned on streets of Guayaquil, wrapped in plastic bags or carton papers.
According to the latest official statistics, the number of Covid-19 infected people in Ecuador reached some 37 thousand, while the Covid related death toll surpassed 5 thousand. The mortality rate is almost 14 percent in this country of 17 million people. The main reason why the growth of Covid-19 cases in Ecuador is unstoppable is, in my opinion, mainly due to the lack of obedience of the Ecuadorian people. Yesterday, the Public Health Minister of Ecuador announced that 54% of infected people in Metropolitan Area of Quito have broken lockdowns since March 17th, and it’s a general phenomenon in the rest of the country.
2. Ecuadorian anti-government protest
The recent outbreak of anti-government protests in Ecuador, which are still sporadic and minor, so far, have complex and different causes, according to the origin of each protester´s discontent and claim. Many university students and professors are protesting against government´s decision to cut their budgets, while the indigenous people, who provoked one of the most severe social turbulences in the history of Ecuador in October last year, are now claiming for their rights for government’s subsidies. I think that once emergency state is finished, stronger and more serious protests can follow, asking for the accountability of this government, due to its mistakes committed during the emergency state.
3. Poverty Issue in Latin America
On May 15th, 2020, there were 450,000 (four hundred fifty thousand) confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 25,000 (twenty five thousand) related deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean. All the countries of this region have implemented lockdowns and physical distancing to reduce the rate of infection and avoid overwhelming national health systems. But, the most vulnerable social segment in this period of Pandemic resulted to be the poor people. According to recent data from public health surveys in Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Uruguay, the size of high risk population to Covid-19 is especially large among the poor people, because they tend to have chronic health problems due to hypertension, obesity and diabetes. In addition to this, the economic burdens placed on the poorest people inevitably forced them to break quarantine in order to feed their families doing whatever job they can find outside home. I saw slogans of protesters saying, “We prefer dying of Covid-19 in the street, than dying of hunger at home.” The longer the lockdowns continue in Latin America, the more catastrophic will be its consequences for the poor people here.
4. Korean donation
Yes, despite the fact that Korean community in Ecuador is relatively small, with some 500 people, mainly living in Quito and Guayaquil, we could raise a significant amount fund to donate 1200 emergency kits of food and 500 masks to the Interior Ministry of Ecuador on May 6th. Maria Paula Romo, Interior Minister, personally received our donation in a public ceremony thanking for the solidarity and humanitarian help from Korean residents in Ecuador. The exemplary case of Korean government in controlling the spread of Covid-19, together with the discipline of Korean people to comply with the public health protocols, such as social distancing, became a model considered as worthy of imitation in Ecuador.
So, more than ever, we, Koreans living in Ecuador, feel very proud of being Koreans in these times of trouble. I always say to my Ecuadorian friends that the Korean people have a special DNA to overcome any kind of adversities, including Covid-19.