Posted by: calloftheandes | October 1, 2010

Ministry Staff Safe Amid Chaotic Day in Ecuador

Sources: HCJB Global, El Comercio, BBC, Voice of America
Photos: El Comercio and Agencia Pública de Noticias del Ecuador y Suramérica
Story by R. Kurtenbach

The rescue of President Correa occurred at a police hospital in Quito.

With live radio news coverage, emergency room care, and prayer during recent violence in Ecuador, HCJB Global maintained its ministries in media and healthcare while safeguarding staff.

Media accounts claim that three died, including one policeman killed late Thursday when police exchanged gunfire with Army troops. Soldiers loyal to President Rafael Correa rescued him from a Quito hospital where striking police were holding him.

The confrontation culminated a day of tensions after police walked off their jobs in protest of legislation approved this week by Ecuador’s Constituent Assembly. The protestors denounced measures that would delay promotions and decrease benefits for police.

The gun battle televised by a Quito network concluded as Army vehicles breached the police security and spirited away the president amid of barrage of gunfire. One policeman fell wounded as tear gas filled the area. Within half a minute, others surrounded the downed man with riot shields, then carried him to an ambulance.

Reports vary on the number wounded, both in the rescue and throughout the day’s civic turbulence. Emergency rooms treated nearly 200 people in Quito alone, according to El Comercio newspaper.

As the 35-minute televised drama unfolded with shouting and bursts of gunfire, Teleamazonas journalists put the wounded at a dozen. The next morning, estimates by television crew members who remained overnight on the scene ranged from seven to 27.

Correa had been hospitalized Thursday morning, after being shoved around by protesting police and was nearly asphyxiated when a tear gas canister was fired his way. Striking police at all levels, including Ecuador’s national police force, also blocked highways and shut down two international airports.

With little enforcement, looting occurred in Guayaquil and Quito and two bank robberies were reported in Quito. Streets in the capital appeared calm throughout the afternoon, as businesses were shuttered and Quito residents stayed home.

That evening army troops surrounded the police hospital to extract Correa from its confines. The violent clash between rebel police and soldiers was followed shortly by televised images of the president speaking to supporters who had gathered at the presidential palace in central Quito.

Radio Station HCJB offered listeners ongoing coverage, relating the events and praying with listeners for a peaceful resolution to the tensions. As the shooting was going on, Christian Zurita – lying prone with some 20 other journalists in the besieged hospital –called in reports. News Director Edwin Chamorro interspersed programming from the state-run Public Radio.

Hospital Vozandes, a short drive from the night’s conflict zone in north Quito, received strike-related 20 patients, including two combatants in the gun battle. The others suffered riot injuries or were assault victims.

Assembled earlier in the day by Graham Bulmer, HCJB Global’s Director of the Latin America Region, a crisis management team took steps to safeguard employees and filter communications.

People were directed to return home as staffs were reduced at the radio station and Hospital Vozandes-Quito (HVQ). Concerns about blocked streets and general insecurity notwithstanding, an HVQ evening shift change occurred without incident, according to Jim Estes, who directs the hospital.

Near midnight, President Correa continued to assess the situation and assure the country on televised talks. The country remains in a state of emergency. Even with classes cancelled on Friday at Ecuadorian schools, traffic began flowing and airlines resumed flights.


  1. […] job, his work is varied and has taken him into such fields as politics (including coverage of protests, riots and coups), the environment and cultural […]

  2. […] Ministry Staff Safe Amid Chaotic Day in Ecuador October 20101 comment 3 […]

  3. Ralph Kurtenbach is an excellent writer, and provides great coverage of relevant news concerning the HCJB family.

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