UPDATED: Our Thoughts About Ecuador Right Now

UPDATED Feb 16, 2024

It has been a little over a month since President Noboa declared a state of emergency and signed the decree he called the Phoenix Plan.

In that time, the military and police have carried out 99,000 security operations nationwide. More than 8,000 people have already been arrested, many of whom are from other countries.

The agents have seized:

  • 2,405 firearms
  • 12,433 explosives
  • 167,024 bullets
  • 1,236 bullet magazines
  • 3,422 knives
  • 979 vehicles
  • 931 motorcycles
  • 28 boats from crime, including a semi-submersible to transport drugs
  • $195,398
  • 47,360 gallons of fuel

Noboa has an 80% approval rating, which is simply unheard of in Ecuador (or most countries) and the international financial markets are responding positively with Ecuador’s bond values jumping on the positive news.

Crime in the worst areas of Guayaquil has plummeted by 50-90% since the first 10 days in January. The murder rate in Guayaquil, Duran, and Samborondon was 28 per day to start the year. It’s now under 6 per day. That’s a 78% decline in just one month.

The notoriously overprotective US State Department still has Ecuador rated a Level 2 Travel Warning (Exercise Increased Caution). This hasn’t changed for the country as a whole in several years and matches other popular tourist destinations like Mexico, The UK, Spain, and France. However, Guayaquil and a few other coastal areas are rated a level 3 or 4 and we still recommend avoiding those areas.

Cuenca, Loja, Cotacachi, Baños, Mindo, and most of the other mountain areas are still safe to visit.

Quito is a big city and our friends tell us there is a lot of military presence on the streets, which can be disconcerting, but they’re doing a job that needs to be done and it’s working.


Original Post

We received dozens of messages on Wednesday about our safety in Ecuador, even though we haven’t been in Ecuador since October 2023. If you haven’t watched our videos lately, you might not know that we’re in Europe right now (January 2024).

If you want to keep tabs on us, we post more frequently on our YouTube Community Tab, Facebook Page, and Instagram. We also write about current events in our newsletter so if you’re wondering if we’re safe or what we think about a current event, these are the best places to check for timely information.

It takes about two weeks for us to research, film, edit, and publish our videos now that we’ve improved the quality of them. We don’t sit down in front of the camera and record rambling, low-quality videos anymore. And we haven’t recorded news updates in almost 2 years.

Our format has changed and, based on the growth of our channel subscribers and views, our audience seems to appreciate the improvement. That’s great news because the more people we reach, the more people we can help live an unconventional life!

It wasn’t “good timing” for us to leave Ecuador. This has been our plan since we launched our YouTube channel in 2018. We wanted to see the world and share it with all of you.

Our original plan was to take several exploratory trips each year throughout Latin America until both our dogs were gone. However, the pandemic put our travel plans on hold and then Daisy’s health was deteriorating rapidly so we didn’t want to leave her for very long (she passed on August 30th).

Ecuador is still our home base, but we’re going to spend a lot of our time each year traveling to all the popular expat destinations around the world so we can share our firsthand experiences and observations with you.

Plus, Ecuador has been in the news for all the wrong reasons way too much lately, and that has caused a lot of you to start thinking about Plan B. We get it.

Our Boots on the Ground Intel

Yes. Taken as a whole from afar, Ecuador is a mess right now and we would have serious second thoughts about visiting or moving there if we didn’t already know it so well.

But like we say every time it makes international news, the whole country isn’t on fire.

We were worried about our friends and viewers after the on-air invasion in the Guayaquil newsroom, the prison escapes, and the new state of emergency, but we’ve since heard from several who live in Cuenca, Cumbaya, Puembo, Quito, Cotacachi, Olón, Loja, Vilcabamba, Baños, Salinas, and Malacatos.

All of them told us they hadn’t seen anything unusual in terms of crime. A few told us that a lot of misinformation was being spread online and people were panicking because of it and the news stories.

Cuenca Mayor Cristian Zamora held an emergency news conference to calm the people. The mayor said, “Nothing is happening in Cuenca. All the rumors are false. There are no criminal attacks here.”

Apparently, what people thought was a gunshot in Parque Calderon that caused a panicked stampede was actually the eves of a building falling to the ground.

According to Kristen, our close friend in Cuenca: “We’re calling it the ‘one day upheaval.’ Pretty much that’s what it was. Things have settled back into a normal routine. I’m not noticing anything when I walk into El Centro, albeit being a little quieter than usual but as the week went on it bounced back to normal.”

(Now we know what it feels like when we see news media reports and we’re not there to witness it for ourselves.)

As a result of the hysteria, schools, stores, and restaurants closed early last Tuesday (January 9, 2024). The CLP Bus to Olón canceled its routes for the day. Some delivery services were also closed for the day. American Airlines canceled flights to the Galapagos Islands (even though NOTHING is happening there).

And by Thursday, everything was back open. Although, there is a lot more police and military presence on the streets in some areas and some schools have reactivated the pandemic-era remote learning policies.

Here’s a quote from Rolando Montesdeoca, a chocolate producer in the rural town of Calceta northeast of Manta: “Foreign and domestic tourists come here, and in reality our zone is tranquil, but what happens is that everything is lumped together when viewed from the outside, so any abnormal situation of a crime, a murder, a hit, ends up affecting everyone.”

The Next Steps for Ecuador

When we moved to Ecuador in 2017 and started our YouTube Channel in 2018, Ecuador was the 3rd safest country in all of Latin America. Now, it’s the most violent in terms of homicide rate at 45 per 100,000 (almost entirely gang/drug-related).

The issues Ecuador is facing started over a decade ago, but have been escalating for the past 3 years and 2 presidents. Very little has been done until now and the issues won’t resolve themselves without serious intervention.

President Noboa took office in late November and seems determined to restore Ecuador to its pre-pandemic level of safety. That’s the major reason he won the election.

On January 4th, Noboa authorized the construction of two new maximum-security mega-prisons using the same company that built the prisons for President Bukele in El Salvador.

According to Noboa, “It is [an] Israeli cooperation in the design of maximum and supermax prisons and the segmentation for minor crimes and misdemeanors. It is a system that was not invented by Bukele…before then it was already in use in Thailand and Singapore. Then came Mexico, El Salvador, and now Ecuador will have it.”

On January 9th, Noboa signed Decree 111 (aka The Phoenix Plan), which declared an official “internal armed conflict,” classified 22 organized crime groups as terrorists, and ordered the Armed Forces to neutralize them by any means necessary (including the use of lethal force and profiling based on gang tattoos, another tactic used by Bukele).

El Salvador went from the most dangerous country in the world just a few years ago, to the safest country in Latin America today. Bukele’s approach is not without its downsides (and critics), but the results in overall public safety cannot be ignored and 9 out of 10 Salvadorans approve of the measures taken by their president.

Some would argue that desperate times call for desperate measures and Ecuador now finds itself in the same position as El Salvador before Bukele took the same steps Noboa is just starting.

The next few weeks and months will be very telling for Ecuador. There’s no way to know how this will play out, but Noboa seems to have enough political, military, and social support to do what is needed to return Ecuador to the peaceful nation it once was.

Shockingly, the National Assembly voted unanimously to support Noboa’s Decree 111. It’s nice to see the National Assembly working WITH the president for the first time since we moved to Ecuador.

Latest News from Ecuador

The police and military are in the process of taking back control of the prisons where the gangs have ruled almost unobstructed for the past several years.

On Sunday, inmates were stripped to their underwear and lined up in the prison courtyards where they sang the Ecuadorian National Anthem. Meanwhile, the gang murals were painted over in the common areas.

According to the government, 1,327 people have been detained in the 6 days since the Phoenix Plan was initiated.

Final Thoughts…

We will be back in Ecuador sometime this year, but we have several more destinations to check off our travel list first.

We still love our adoptive homeland and we’re not giving up on it! For the first time in over two years, we’re full of optimism for it!

Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!

4 replies
  1. Elizabeth Calef
    Elizabeth Calef says:

    I lived in a drug infested neighborhood in the US for almost 2 decades. If you’re not involved with it and use common sense, it’s unlikely you’ll fall victim to violence.

    Reply

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