Ecuador: Impressive Moblization of Civil Society in response to Earthquake (Opinion)

Posted on April 25, 2016 • Filed under: Ecuador, Ecuador Emergency, Politics

By MARTÍN PALLARES(NY TIMES OPINION PAGE)The earthquake that shook Ecuador last Saturday has proved to be the most destructive in nearly seven decades and has caused the worst humanitarian catastrophe here in memory. Official figures record more than 577 dead, but according to the hundreds of volunteers in the disaster zone, there are many more fatalities not yet accounted for. Entire villages have been destroyed, and the photographs circulating on social media resemble scenes from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The earthquake is historic not only for the magnitude of the destruction and human suffering, but also for giving rise to the most impressive mobilization of civil society in Ecuador I can remember. The country has become one huge relief center, and in almost every neighborhood, in towns large and small, there are collection points for donations of clothing, food and blankets.

So many people have joined the aid effort that in some places, they have been asked to stop sending volunteers. Social media has become a citizens’ channel for messaging about offers of help or calls for relief: everything from medicine and mattresses to drinking water and toys for children, and even powdered lime to cover the hastily buried corpses of loved ones.

What is striking about this huge humanitarian operation is that it has pushed the state into a secondary role. This may be normal in other countries, but in Ecuador this is an immensely significant development.

During President Rafael Correa’s nine years in office, the state has become the arbiter of almost every aspect of life here. Mr. Correa, an American-educated economist, is a declared enemy of any civil society organization that doesn’t adhere to his government’s vision of centralized, top-down power. He never misses an opportunity to criticize nongovernmental organizations that are not aligned with his politics, and has even closed down those that incur his displeasure. Read Article
Read Full Opinion in N.Y. Times


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