Sorry guys... leave the internet and it´s two days before I can get a chance to post again. Hopefully that will all change today! We´re supposedly getting wireless internet at the apartment - fingers crossed.
So. There I was, sitting on my bed and watching events unfold. First, the troops positioned on the embankment one by one ran to the wall in front of the hospital; then then took the guardhouse; ten minutes of confused panning of the camera ensued. Next visible movement was the sight of troops running along the wall of the building - apparently they´d gained entry to the compound. Finally, a motorcade of cars came zooming out from around the corner - that must be Correa, they got him out. But the gunshots continued. Suddenly, the camera panned to the left, where on live television we watching as a soldier, standing at the top of the embankment, tumbled down the stone median and lay still at the bottom. Other soldiers ran into the camera´s view, crouching by the wounded man and then frantically calling for medics.
This wasn´t supposed to happen. Was this really happening?? Ecuador´s modern political history, though unstable, was at the very least peaceful. The only death on record, in fact, was a ninety-year-old man who died of a heart attack during a political rally some years before. But this fighting, over something at trivial as budget cuts, made such a mockery of the democratic political process that the possibility that this could get serious seemed all too real. The light-hearted tone we´d taken earlier in the day was due to the belief that truly, this just could not escalate to a critical level. But four casualties later at ten o´clock at night, that conclusion was now thrown in doubt.
Listening to Correa´s speech given from the terrace of the presidential palace some minutes later, it became clear that he was in control again, with the military and a large popular movement behind him. Things went basically back to normal the next day, but with no classes and a large police presence. Over the next few days, it became clear that what we had witnessed was not, in fact, an attempted coup, but rather a piece of pretty low political theater. The police did walk off their jobs, but when Correa went to their barracks and essentially taunted them, ¨Kill the president if you´re brave¨, he knowingly put himself in a situation where he would be threatened. Apparently, this was exactly what he wanted, even if he hadn´t planned out specifically what was going to happen. The full picture is still developing - one would think he would use this to bolster support for his austerity measures, but I´ve heard he´s now raising salaries for the police and military. Most Ecuadorians I´ve spoken with realize what Correa was doing and aren´t buying it. One nice man I spoke to for about an hour at the coffee place in Quicentro on Sunday described Correa as taking advantage of the people´s, "Lack of political culture" - not of education exactly, just the sophistication to know when the process is being abused. In many ways this is representative of Ecuador as a whole. There may be the infraestructure present, both political and physical, but often times it is not used correctly.