Guayaquil, the image of tragedy

Ecuador has positioned itself among countries with a bleak outlook in the fight against Covid-19. At the beginning of March 2021, the country registered 299,216 confirmed cases and 11,403 deaths, according to data from the Ministry of Public Health of Ecuador, an institution that throughout the health emergency did not reflect any credibility in its numbers, in contrast to glaring realities such as overburdened health system with dire consequences in almost the entire national territory.

Going back to the beginning of the pandemic – exactly a year ago – the dramatic scenes of corpses huddled in hospital rooms, in refrigerated containers, inside the houses and on the sidewalks of the city of Guayaquil were the most visible part of the devastating effects of the pandemic in Ecuador in the eyes of Worldwide. However, the new coronavirus puts on the table a series of antecedents to reflect on: the historical role of the State, the political configuration and the inequality and poverty that have systematically persisted in this country.

The province of Guayas and its capital, the city of Guayaquil, one of the most important and densely populated cities in the country for being an economic stronghold due to its port, housed almost 68% of the total number of confirmed cases in the country during the first months of the Covid-19 health crisis.

This was not only due to the delay in implementing preventive measures after the first recorded case, but also due to the social composition of the province of Guayas, from which political and economic dynamics are disaggregated which we will proceed to explain in relation to the crisis of the State and the democracy, applied to the Ecuadorian case.

Following Norbert Lechner in his work “Politics is no longer what it was”, the prevailing market dynamics in our Latin American societies results in an imperative need for economic efficiency on the part of States, leaving second – or last – the “social integration”, that is, leaving the numerous social needs and inequalities at the margin of public policy, to the detriment of economic performance. Of course, it also has a lot to do with the political will and interests at stake at each critical juncture.

The aforementioned could have its materialization both in Guayaquil, as well as throughout Ecuador. Given the economically privileged condition of the province of Guayas, as one of the main ports in the Pacific, wealth has been generated over the decades for traders and exporters, but at the same time its correlate has germinated in peripheral communities living in extreme poverty. Economic inequality has resulted in a crisis of political representation, which has worked for the benefit of a few influential groups – elites.

Here, public health services – as well as education and housing – have historically been approached in dissonance with the realities, causing in the long run a precariousness of these services and their subsequent overflow in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the other hand, before the health crisis, Guayaquil’s social conditions are a reflection of a political crisis channeled by financial inequality, which, if not corrected in these contexts, could lead to a deepening of the social crisis and, in the long run, to a state crisis.

As a historical coda, Guayaquil tried to become independent from Ecuador due to its port status, the political influence and the economic benefits that all this entails. This report, as surprising as it may be, still prevails under the idea of ​​”independent Guayaquil”, often used as a slogan at political and festive rallies in the city. Read more (08/04/2021 – 09h27).




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