HAVANA TIMES — The type of missing person announcement you see here can be found at practically any bus stop or busy street in Quito. Friends from Cuba often ask me what has struck me the most about Ecuador so far. Well, there you go: its missing persons.
I had expected something else to make a deep impression in me, something like extreme poverty. I actually haven’t seen any of that yet, to the point that I dare say Cuba is poorer than Ecuador. What’s more, Quito is an extraordinarily beautiful city, a city of modern buildings nestled among immense volcanoes and mountains.
What has struck me the most about Ecuador is the number of missing person announcements one comes across. The missing are almost always young people (of both genders). It is said they are kidnapped by organ traffickers. It is also said that they are very rarely found.
Seeing the photo of a missing child is truly heartbreaking. Some days ago, authorities discovered a whole series of “de-homosexualizing” clinics, where some of the missing young people would end up, secretly sent there by their parents to be subjected to a medieval treatment aimed at making them give up their sinful ways (as though it worked that way).
What does the treatment consist of? Getting the kids out of bed at 4 in the morning, in the chilling cold of the Andes, and hosing them with cold water. Luckily, Ecuador’s Minister of Health is already devoting efforts to shut down these “institutions”, operating (needless to say) outside the bounds of the World Health Organization.
The photos of people who have gone missing for even worse reasons, however, continue to be posted. It is quite shocking. Ecuador strikes me as a safer country than its neighbors in the region, but it seems the worse can happen to you at any moment.
It is said a leading member of the opposition to President Correa, was implicated in these kidnappings and organ “business”. But the laws in Latin America were not made for the powerful, and no action has been taken.
There is always at least one photo of a missing person at every bus stop in Quito. Though I never know the person in the photo, I can’t help but imagine the pain their family feels, and to suffer over the tragedy that befalls these young people who end up as unwilling organ donors and lose their lives to this terrible business.