Coup? What Coup?

After flying into an Ecuador coup en route to a Galapagos cruise, the author experienced the political demonstrations first-hand in the capital of Quito.
After flying into an Ecuador coup en route to a Galapagos cruise, the author experienced the political demonstrations first-hand in the capital of Quito. (By Jorge Vinueza/bloomberg News)

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By Peter Mandel
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, May 15, 2005

¡Resten ustedes tranquilos¡! Stay calm.

Leave your baggage in the overhead bins. Remain in your seats.

Our pilot has a lot of urgent things to say in Spanish. I pick up on the seat part, the calm part. It is late April, and here we are being held up on the tarmac after flying from JFK to an airport in Guayaquil, Ecuador. There are soldiers all over the place. And no sign of this standoff coming to an end.

"The airport is now closed," explains one of the flight attendants in English.

Closed? I ask. How come? I am extra anxious because I'm heading for an adventure cruise in the Galapagos. I am afraid of blowing my connection.

"Are you not aware," says a man with a wide silk tie sitting beside me, "about the president of Ecuador? He has fired the Supreme Court."

I'm embarrassed to say this is the first I've heard of it. And I am petulant. What does that piece of news have to do with all these soldiers? Then it hits me.

Could we have arrived, I ask, in the middle of a coup?

"A coup?" he says. "Of course."

I get a flash of fear. I came here for adventure, sure. But not this kind. Not this real.

Not now.

We are let out of our plane after an hour -- this is a relief -- but then are herded into a terminal waiting room by soldiers, national police, and cool and stylish ground agents.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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