CNH Tours - Cultural and Natural Heritage Tours Galapagos
Thursday June 11, 2015
Social rumblings in the islands
Over the past 2 years, the government of Ecuador has been reviewing the Special Law for Galapagos (SLG) - a law originally passed in 1998, which gives the islands and its residents special status, and providing a legal framework that overrides the national constitution, in an effort to better control development there. It has been considered a major achievement even at the international level.
The revised law, passed earlier this week, loosens some of these controls, making large investments in high end hotels easier, as well as making easier the changing of the boundaries of the National Park. Moreover, the "remote" status of the islands, which translated into a type of salary bonus for public employees there, is being revised in such a way as to reduce the isolation bonus they have been enjoying for nearly 20 years now.
As a result of these and other changes, people in Galapagos have been demonstrating against the Quito government in recent days. Sure, a good number are simply concerned over the risk to their pay scales - but others are concerned about the erosion of environmental protection guarantees.
The government, in response, has sent in more police to the islands, protecting gas stations and the like. There have been some public demonstrations and some stand-offs with police forces - but no violence has been reported.
CNH Tours is of course very concerned that increased development in the islands (largely driven by land based tourism - as ship based tourism has been remarkably capped for 15-20 years) will contribute to the erosion of the values for which they are internationally recognized.
For those of you visiting the islands in the coming days (perhaps weeks), if you are taking "just the cruise" with no land component, you will likely not even notice any of this. For those of you planning on spending time in town (particularly in San Cristobal), you may get to witness interesting moments. While you may want to stay out of the thick of things, these are interesting moments when society seeks to get a message across to a government based in a far away capital.