Saturday, December 21, 2013
Coopera Hunger Strike
Dear Family and Friends,
I have posted on this blog in the past about the Coopera. The Coopera I posted about was the store near our condo that was filled with fruits, vegetables and some meat and fish. We went there several times a week to get good locally grown food....real food.
The Coopera was just one of several offshoots of the Coopera credit union. If you were a member of the credit union (with as little as $5 deposited) then you got a discount on the food you purchased. The credit union was just fabulous...paying 10% interest on CD's. Fantastic!!
Word got around about the great interest rates being paid. People (Ecuadorians and Expats) lined up to put their money into the Coopera credit union. Why not?.... Well, one why not is that the money was not insured by the government of Ecuador. But with the thriving businesses (food stores and a restaurant) run by the credit union it seemed solvent enough.
One bright sunny day this past June the world came crashing down on all of us who had, not so wisely, put our faith in this credit union. The government seized and closed the credit union. It turns out that the top officials of the credit union were involved in a money laundering scheme. Not only that, they were embezzling money.
Everyone who had money in the Coopera had to wait for the government to sort things out. Actually, they are still sorting things out.
In about August, the government started returning some investors their money. Investors who had ten thousand dollars or less got their money refunded. In September, investors who had thirty thousand dollars or less were able to get their money refunded. Fortunately we had not deposited that much and we received our money back on September 8th.
All those who deposited more than thirty thousand dollars are still unsure of how much, if any, they will get back. This is really a shame because many Ecuadorians who returned to Ecuador from the U.S. over the last few years deposited their savings there. Many hard working Ecuadorians had their life savings deposited there. Also, many expats had more than thirty thousand dollars deposited.
As it turns out, people who had thirty thousand dollars or less deposited received 100% of their money back. To date, people who had over thirty thousand dollars deposited have received none of their money back.
I tell you all this to give you some background for the pictures I took on Thursday.
Hunger Strike in Parque Calderon
On Thursday I went to the central park (Parque Calderon). In the bandstand gazabo, called a glorieta by the locals, there were several people camped out. These people were investors of over thirty thousand dollars who had not received one cent of their deposited money. They want answers and so far the government has refused to discuss the matter with them.
Asking around, I learned that they are camped out here and will not eat for two days. They are doing this to call attention to their plight.
The "glorietta" was covered in plastic. I assume that they did this to keep out the cold air while they slept during the night. As it got warmer during the day they started rolling up the plastic.
One side of was covered in signs of protest. Quite a few people were stopping and reading the protest signs.
Inside the protesters were camped out.
While across the street, the police stood guard to make sure the protest remained peaceful.
Ecuador is an interesting country. We are still, after five years, amazed almost every day.
If, and when, this is all over I will share the outcome with you.