Ecuador President Rafael Correa has won reelection for a third term, but this time his massive 30-point victory is tainted by the mark of scandal. The basic assumption that comes with the news that an elected official has won reelection is the existence of a free press – that’s not the case in Ecuador.
To be fair, before we continue, it must be reported that President Correa has dramatically improved the quality of life for Ecuadorians over his time as President since 2007. Thanks to a concentrated effort of getting as much oil-related revenue as possible, Ecuador has improved the condition of its streets and roads, and markedly reduced its poverty rate – from 60 percent when Correa started to 27 percent today, according to reports.
But one would think that kind of economic track record would give a politician enough comfort and confidence to be able to not just tolerate, but desire an open, free, press.
Consider this, thanks to Al Jazeera: there have been “close to 400 violations of the media’s freedom of expression since January 2008.” That exactly squares with the Correa Administration, and it means that the forth estate – what we in America call the press, as the check-and-balance system for our country – doesn’t exist in Ecuador.
Consider what happened to the once-effective El Universo and its main columnist Emilio Palacio and the other editors of that once-great newspaper. After calling President Correa “The Dictator” in his February 2011 editorial, President Correa acted, well, like a dictator, but in a democratic style, using the corrupt court system to sue the paper, attempt to jail its owners for three years and charge it with the impossible fine of $40 million. Emilio Palacio fled Ecuador and as of this writing is said to be living in Miami.
Imagine if TIME Magazine editor and MSNBC Contributor Mark Halperin were operating in Ecuador and called Correa a “dick,” much as he did to President Obama two years ago…
If Halperin did that to Correa, and have lived and worked in Ecuador, he almost certainly would have been sued, jailed, and fined, and may still be in jail today. Instead, Halerin’s an active journalist enjoying the success of the TV version of his book Game Change, about the 2008 Presidential Election in America.
Correa Bullies Press, Covers Up Chevron Truths
This almost erasure of press freedoms allows President Correa to make up whatever narrative he chooses to do so, and then have the media distribute it. Consider that before Correa’s action against El Universo, the news organization reported that the state-run Petroecuador oil company was responsible for over 1,400 oil spills in the region.
Since Correa’s action, there has been no report by El Universo of oil spills by Petroecuador, and criticism of the President, while still done by writers like Enrique Rosales Ortega, is far less biting than before.
So while Petroecuador is largely protected by the media, the truth about the fraudulent case against Chevron never sees the light of day. Instead, what we have are streams of news that aides the plaintiffs in the case.
The fixed Ecuador media, at your service.