Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

From Ecuador. President’s Powers Go Unchecked

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Ecuadorian democracy is as strong as ever.  There is freedom of information and expression.  The Revolución Ciudadana (Citizens’ Revolution) is not only moving forward, but is radicalizing.

These statements, largely accepted as true both within and without Ecuador, are patently false.

Following the police strike of September 30, President Correa has extended the estado de excepción (state of exception) for “at least” another 60 days, the constitutional limit. While the Ecuadorian assembly will continue to meet, debate and pass legislation, the president has the power to suspend the assembly at any moment and rule by decree.  Correa has the full backing of the military in all of his actions.

The reasoning for the extension of the estado de excepción is vague and varied—restructuring of the police, the need for time to purge and prosecute those who participated in the “coup,” national security, etc.  The great irony is that as states as dissimilar as Iran and Cuba and the United States and Chile have rushed to lend support to Correa in his strengthening of Ecuadorian democracy, an estado de excepción is inherently undemocratic; it is the suspension of the normal, democratic, constitutional order.  And we’re in it through December.

President Correa’s administration has tried to avoid the topic of media freedom since September 30.  However, as criticism of the government’s obliging of national stations to broadcast only the Cadena Nacional (National Channel), representatives of the administration have spoken out.

The action has been defended on two grounds.  First, some suggest that the estado de excepción gives the president the power to suspend any broadcasts he or she deems to be dangerous to national security.  Second, others have argued that the Ley de Comunicación (Communication Law) gives the government the power to suspend any broadcasts that may incite violence.  While this is not the first time Correa’s administration has used this justification to shut down radio or TV stations, the repercussions have been more far-reaching.  As political analyst Marco Arauz Ortega notes, the international media has lazily re-broadcast the one-sided information provided by the government, and thus created a rhetoric that is based on—at best—half-truths.

Finally, President Correa has promised, most recently this week at the meeting of the Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC), to re-enforce and radicalize the leftist Revolución Ciudadana agenda.  While some goals of this “revolutionary” movement that brought him to power have been met during his tenure as president, such as free university education, others, such as agrarian reform, have not yet been addressed.  Correa’s promises of radicalization are in direct contradiction to current policies being debated and passed in the legislature, such as the controversial ley de educación superior, ley de servicios publicos (an unpopular national austerity budget) and most recently, a proposal to reduce pensions. 

So while Correa is talking the talk of democracy, freedom of information and revolución, he’s doing a very different walk, down a very slippery slope.  The question then is, why are we all following him?

*Lindsay Green-Barber is a guest blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. She is a graduate teaching fellow at Hunter College and PhD candidate at City University in New York and is in Ecuador doing field research for her doctoral dissertation on information and communication technologies and social movements in developing countries.

Tags: Ecuador, Rafael Correa
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