An Expat’s view, are we safer in Ecuador?

Posted on January 29, 2014 • Filed under: Ecuador

Are we safer in Ecuador?
Andy Taylor, an expat (therapist and writer) living on the coast of Ecuador considers the issues.

Home invasion robberies horrify expats living in Ecuador, just as they do anywhere. Burglaries are vulture-like attacks leaving us feeling like prey. They are an infringement of our human right to both privacy and possessions. When they are coupled with violence, they disgust us and leave us angry and bruised, both personally and as a community of people who empathise with our fellows who have become victims of crime.
However, when you compare the statistics – in the US there are five times as many reported burglaries (per capita) than in Ecuador. ( A part of this discrepancy may be because people are less likely to report burglaries in Ecuador. Let´s face it, most burglaries are reported for insurance purposes without much hope of “catching” the criminals. I doubt, however, that the unreported crimes in Ecuador would tip the scales dramatically. Both rich and poor in Ecuador seem to take every affordable precaution to secure their homes.
Comparing crime statistics doesn´t always look good for Ecuador, however. When we look at the figures for total robberies (burglaries, robberies of businesses and robberies outdoors) Ecuador has twice as many police reported robberies (per person) than in the US. Whereas, in the US you are twice as likely to experience rape. Swings and Roundabouts.
The World Health Organisation tell us that Ecuador´s intentional homicide rate is double that of the US (per capita) a figure that includes killings in domestic disputes, violent conflicts over land resources, inter-gang violence of turf or control, predatory violence and killing by armed groups. (Notably, the figures do not include killing by armed forces “in conflict.”)
Alarming? Yes? Well, is it?
I´d like to see the statistics for how many of those intentional homicides were related to drug-trafficking. The US is the highest consumer of cocaine in the world. Over half of US bound cocaine is trafficked through Ecuadorian waters and with no currency conversion obstacles ($!) it´s:
“an attractive location for cash placement by drug traffickers laundering money.”
The symbiosis between the US and Ecuador is at some level (but at which level?) closely knit. Both countries have a good deal in common. The rich / poor divide is almost identical. In both countries the richest 20% hold (just under) half of the nation´s income. However, according to, a web site that compares national statistics, the average annual salary in Ecuador is $4,300, the same in the US is $41,800.

Despite the alarm of unprecedented global environmental crisis both Ecuador and the US take most of their energy from fossil fuels. (The rest in Ecuador is provided by hydro-electric plants (19%), and most of the rest in the USA comes from nuclear power generators (20%).) Crime is so very relative.

So how do any of these figures help anyone decide whether to move to or stay living in Ecuador? The simple answer is that they don´t. We base our personal decisions on so many other things, our intuitions and also what we are told.

When I first visited Ecuador I witnessed a man shot dead on the street in Quito. When I first moved to the coast, a local shopkeeper was killed in a robbery. The perpetrators were chased, captured, bound and burnt alive by an angry mob of locals in a public place. When there was a spate of burglaries in the area, and then nothing, the word on the street (gossip) was that the same gang had hit the property of a retired drug lord and were assassinated. My concern about Ecuador is not the level of crime, but the semi-permeability of law enforcement, and the inequality of opportunity that it presents.

Coming up to the local elections, it has been interesting to ask around my Ecuadorian friends who they are going to vote for and why. They are equally as politically apathetic as my friends back home. They, simply, don´t trust politicians. They feel that politicians are all motivated by their own financial gain. They talk about nepotism and corruption and hopelessness – ultimately, the impotency of their vote. Just like my friends back home, the general consensus is that no political party is better than the other. They don´t believe the promises politician´s make. At every level of existence we feel unrepresented by them. I guess, that´s a global phenomenon. But, we might say…here in Ecuador judges and policemen and local government officials are corrupt! And back home? Well, let´s face it! It largely happens at a higher level, but…!

There´s a similar semi-permeability about peti-crime in Ecuador. It always makes me laugh when I hear fellow expat´s talk about “pilfering” robberies, usually about their domestic workers. I hear them calling it a “cultural difference” followed by… “they don´t consider it stealing.” We “joke” that if you get stopped by the police you offered them “something for a cola” with a twenty dollar note in your hand. The inequality of this reality rarely warrants further consideration. Corruption always favours the wealthy.

Are you safer in Ecuador? Simply because you have the spending power you are likely to be able to manipulate the law, but does that make you feel any safer? Personal safety in Ecuador will partly depend on your integration within a community (or the height of your walls and how many guards you have.) Personal safety is (as it says on the tin) a very personal perception.

It is intuitive, but our inner messengers can often be tainted by fear. We all deserve to find an emotional balance between absolute caution and the freedom to roam. The experience of a “break-in” can brutally contaminate our sub-conscious mind. The intimidation corrodes our sense of being at peace with the world. The energy and time required to recover from the shock of violation is never worth the value of the stolen goods. Ultimately, being a victim of crime is as much related to misfortune as it is location. But I do think it is much tougher to experience trauma when you away from all that is familiar to you.

Be safe.

Andy Taylor 44, is a therapist and writer, who lives on the coast of Ecuador. If you have been affected by the issues discussed in this article, feel free to contact him for details of English speaking therapists in your area, so that you might benefit from having someone to talk over your personal concerns. ( If you would like to discuss any of the issues in this article join the facebook group SUPPORT ECUADOR.

Unless otherwise stated all the statistical information in this article came from, a website that compares national statistics.

Share This Story
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • email