“Kathleen, I have wondered for some time about the safety in Ecuador. We have friends who had a foreign student staying with them for her senior year of high school from Quito. While she was here, her dad was assassinated.
“I read about the country granting immunity to the Wikileaks fellow to get back at the United States. Even though the U.S. has no warrant for him. When I study it further I find that the country has become a close ally of Hugo Chavez from Venezuela.
“All of a sudden I think there have to be a lot better places to consider.
“Am I wrong? Do others express the same fear? Are you going to be doing a story about the safety of the expat, not just from thieves but also from the government?”
–Brian C., United States
I asked Latin America Correspondent Lee Harrison, with a decade of personal experience in Ecuador, to reply. Lee writes:
“To be honest, I don’t know what Ecuador’s motivation is for providing asylum to Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. It may be to keep him away from the United States, although the State Department has declined to comment on the scope of their prosecution over Wikileaks (and has only one prosecution under way).
“I find that violence is relatively rare in Ecuador when compared with our own culture, and you won’t find serial killings, mass killings, or hate crimes. As in the United States, small towns and rural settings see less crime than urban areas.
“As to the close alliance between Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, this link is mostly forged by the U.S. media. In fact, every country in Latin America has normal relations with Venezuela, and Chávez’s business ties with the United States itself are far greater than they are with Ecuador.
“I think the greatest similarity between presidents Chávez and Correa is that neither one does what the United States tells them to do. Otherwise, in the ways their countries are run, I see little resemblance.
“When Correa took office, he stated that he would not renew the lease for the U.S. military base in Manta…and he didn’t. This bit of insurrection led to a general U.S. bias against Ecuador.
“Personally, I try to ignore the politics of potential countries, unless they affect my personal rights, property ownership, or residency. In Ecuador, they don’t.
“In fact, I’ve experienced Ecuador under the U.S.-backed presidents, and I can tell you firsthand that, for an expat, Ecuador is better under Correa than it was previously. The infrastructure is in better shape, with better roads and loads of projects now being completed. Corruption is down, and people’s general outlook is better, with less social tension.
“Some people select a country (or cross it off their lists) in part because of the ideology of the current president. The danger in this approach is that presidents change. You risk making a long-term decision based on a temporary situation.
“My advice would be to take a look at life in Ecuador and see what it’s like. See if the country appeals to you. Talk to some of the thousands of expats who already live there. You’ll know immediately if it’s a place that could feel like home for you.”
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