Ecuador: From Coronavirus to the Future

Will Humanity Change?

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By Jaime Mantilla A.

Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State, known as the black monk of global power, in a recent commentary published in the Wall Street Journal, insists on something we have been discussing in recent months: The coronavirus pandemic will change the world order forever.

The great catastrophes in the history of humanity have always led to profound changes in the systems we have designed to survive, flourish and even provide us with the illusion that we can be almost like gods.

In America and the ancient world, it was the gods who caused catastrophes but at the same time those who, after sacrifices and prayers, listened to the complaints of the helpless humans and lifted the divine punishment. In   these confrontations between human beings, the warring parties always imagined that God or gods was on their side.   It was never known who they were protecting: whether it was the eventual winners who had to assume the high costs for their country and their allies, or  the defeated, that they had to learn to survive with the lessons of that defeat.

Masked merchants and shoppers in a working-class market. There is now a curfew from 2 p.m. to 5 a.m. throughout the entire country. To leave the house, Ecuadoreans must don masks and gloves.

In conflagrations, the attention of rulers and ruled was focused on achieving the defeat of the adversary.  They were crises caused by human beings themselves.  In overcoming natural disasters, attention was directed to how to counteract those forces that could not be dominated. something similar happened when faced plagues and pandemics.

In Ecuador, as in most countries around the world, this pandemic caught us off guard. Since the beginning of President Lenin Moreno's tenure, members of his government, the opposition, scholars and intellectuals have been dedicated to analyzing and suggesting solutions to overcome the economic bankruptcy left by the previous government, recover democratic society, restore independent justice and—especially in the last year—to compensate for the drop in the prices of its main export products without affecting Ecuador’s underprivileged classes. 

All these efforts were designed to achieve those goals. No one imagined that in a few days or weeks, these urgent goals would be replaced with the struggle for survival in a fragmented country, heavily in debt and with minimal resources.

The Ecuadorean Health Minister, together with the Guayas governor, check out provisional installations at the Jimenez Parra Coliseum in Guayaquil to house those with mild to moderate cases of the corona virus.

The long-delayed measures to solve serious economic problems were overshadowed by having to design other alternative ways to also deal with the coronavirus.

The government has tried to prevent the spread of the virus, reducing the number of deaths in a totally skeptical and undisciplined society that had lost its confidence in their leaders, but at the same time, because of the examples given them in the last ten years, thought that economic growth, consumption and hedonism were the paths for personal fulfillment.   Ecuadorians did not realize that the country projected by the previous government with its basis in the abundance of money, consumption and indebtedness, had left most of the inhabitants belonging to the most neglected rural and urban classes on the sidelines.

The government has shut itself down. The work carried out with the support of some local governments focuses on solving the daily emergencies that arise.  Several responsible social groups, business people and university professors have collaborated to solve these emergencies, focusing particularly on concrete proposals to prepare the future after overcoming the health problem, creating several difficult scenarios in which everybody must act in a process of national unity, rebuilding social fabric and the economy.

Workers from a private company hose down the entrance to a Guayaqui cemetery with disinfectants.

Many national and foreign media have tried to narrate the severity of the crisis, the successes and mistakes, the number of victims, the realities of each country and its governments. They have not noticed the immense social gap that has made the poorest— as has been traditional in other tragedies—the ones who bear the brunt of this drama.

Journalism has echoed what has been published on social networks, of visitors and trolls looking for popularity. That old proposal of the ‘90s to count on citizens to become citizen-journalists acting within the community, proved to be a failure, because through social networks, thousands of participants began to act, not to simply and honestly narrate what they saw, but to satiate their whims and obtain revenge against those who considered their enemies trying to gain notoriety.

The media, in general, trying to narrate the severity of the pandemic, given the difficulties encountered in obtaining the different versions of reality, have concentrated on publishingvideos or photos cases that arouse the most amazement and fear.

Food to be donated to the most needy. Private enterprise has donated more than $20 million in supplies.

Opinion pieces, on the contrary, offer readers or viewers deeper analysis, but those have not necessarily resulted in  increased readership or visibility. The public has obviously become accustomed to information in brief capsules, to being surprised by the impact of images, rather than to meditating on analyses for a positive reaction.

We face, as many thinkers mention, radical changes in our way of being, of living, in our interpersonal relationships. The crisis surprises us; we miss the past and fear  the future. This global upheaval gives everyone the opportunity to get back on track.  

The gears of humanity will continue to move. We must look deeply into the chain to understand and re build relationships throughout society. Its links must be well tied so that the different social groups must know how to support those who are most in need, seeking balance; offer employment, cover their basic aspirations, hire their services, find unity in this, so that we all must understand the vital need to grow together building a more just and equitable and conscious future.

Together with family members, hospital workers at the IESS Los Ceibos Hospital in Guayaquil applaud a patient’s recovery.

Pandemic, for the  first time in history, has put us in front of a large mirror of reality in which we see real faces rather thanmasks, deteriorating institutions, false leaders who are exploiters, weak leadership, all of them cornered in their own deficiencies.

And in the face of this scenario we ask,  what is the real meaning of democracy?   Democracy has justified many discussions, wars, misunderstandings and blindness. An ideal term that has been replaced by the spectacle, consumerism, the fiction of well-being, as mentioned by Mario Vargas Llosa in Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society.

This pandemic also makes us see the fragility of the media and social networks, reveals the arrogance that has invaded the media with the pretense of being the great informants and shapers of the opinion. Returning to the thoughts of the Peruvian writer, the show supplanted the truth, sensationalism buried objectivity in search of ratings. Ethics has been forgotten for the benefit of short utilitarian visions.

We must return to humility, austerity and honesty, restoring the common sense to reject this obsession that has made us believe men has been ready to become God.

The pandemic is a very hard lesson for this society burdened by haste, the immediacy that has supplanted the ideas, with spectacle. We should rescue solidarity, sensitivity, creativity, imitating those who build in the storm   to assess the person as part of the family and the society in time, work and relationships with others.  


 Jaime Mantilla is the founder of several media in Ecuador, among them HOY, Revista Cosas-Ecuador, Metro de Quito, Metro de Guayaquil, Metro de Cuenca, Diario Popular, Hoy la Radio, TVHoy and the first newspaper website in the Americas , HOYNet, founded in 1992. He was president of AEDEP (the Ecuadorian Association of Newspaper Editors) on several occasions and was president of the Inter American Press Association 2012-2013. He was a member of the Foreign Relations Advisory Board 2002-2006. He was a Knight Fellow Stanford University, 1992-1993. Contact: