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The Persecution of Rafael Correa

By Joe Emersberger | CounterPunch | July 9, 2018

An Ecuadorean judge has issued an arrest order for former President Rafael Correa. Correa is accused of having masterminded an attempted kidnapping of the right wing former legislator, Fernando Balda, in 2012. Balda was in Colombia at the time evading a prison sentence in Ecuador for libel. The kidnapping was foiled within a few hours by Colombian police and the perpetrators were captured. Months later, Balda was deported to Ecuador where he served two years in jail.

As explained in other pieces for CounterPunch (here, here, and here) in 2017 Lenin Moreno was elected on a platform of continuing the policies of his left wing predecessor, Correa, who was first elected in 2006. Immediately after taking office, Moreno shifted very hard to the right and has therefore made it his main priority to accuse the government he was part of for ten years of being corrupt.

A week before the arrest order for Correa, I spoke with Virgilio Hernandez who was a member of the National Assembly while Correa was in office. Part of the interview was updated after the arrest order came out. A key point Hernandez makes is that the “Transitional” Citizens Participation Council whose members were hand-picked by President Moreno (details here on the reasons the body is unconstitutional) has sweeping powers over the judiciary and other authorities.

JOE EMERSBERGER: Could you please explain the various legal and constitutional problems with the way Correa is being pursued over the Fernando Balda case?

VIRGILIO HERNANDEZ:The obvious thing about the Balda case is its political functionality, the determined effort to prosecute the former president Rafael Correa for anything at all. The case is in its early stages but the prosecution has already perpetrated a series of irregularities, a series of violations of the institutional norms and of the rule of law that makes it absolutely clear that justice is not their goal. They are not pursuing a credible investigation of the facts. They are basically pursuing political objectives through the prosecution of Rafael Correa on frivolous grounds.

The first irregularity is that, according to our constitution, authorization to prosecute the ex-president should have been received from the National Assembly. In fact, it was requested by Judge Camacho on June 11. Unfortunately, a majority that exists in the assembly is an alliance between the Alianza País party [that Correa and his allies resigned from after they broke with President Moreno] and the Social Cristiano party [right wing legislators] and what did they do? On June 15, they voted through [by simple majority] a resolution saying that the assembly is not competent to respond to the judge’s request. Regrettably, the judge then disregarded her own authority, ignored the Organic Law of the Judicial Function, and followed through with a hearing to move the case forward when what she was supposed to do was demand that the National Assembly comply with her request – to vote on whether or not they authorize the prosecution of former president Rafael Correa [a 2/3 vote in favor is required for the prosecution to proceed]. Here is the first thing that that reveals political animosity, that the rule of law is not respected, that due process and the constitution are not respected.

Second (and this explains a huge blunder that was perpetrated in contextual terms) one must understand why the prosecution of the former president had to be authorized by the National Assembly. It was because the events to which he is being linked happened while he was president. The law says that for prosecution to proceed presidential immunity must first be removed for events that took place while he was in office. That’s the second irregularity.

A third irregularity is that in general a whole slew of authorities in our country are acting illegally. The acting attorney general was appointed by the “Transitional” Citizens Participation Council that has been overhauling the justice system by appointing interim prosecutors and an interim Judicial Council. The acting prosecutor has not been sworn in before the National Assembly as mandated by the constitution. Their authority is completely illegitimate.

A fourth irregularity is that the arguments used to link Rafael Correa to the Balda’s case [the attempted kidnapping] are utterly weak and confirm that there is a political vendetta being pursued against the former president. Let’s quickly go over those arguments.

First, the simple fact that he was president is used to argue that he was criminally responsible. Criminal responsibility is something very personal. It cannot be established that he has criminal responsibility for all acts perpetrated while he was in office. That’s a legal absurdity.

Second, the former president is linked through hearsay, from what other people have claimed, or by remarks attributed to the ex-president saying he wanted to see Balda (who was a fugitive from Ecuador’s justice system at the time) captured. Balda was also engaged in electronic espionage and a permanent destabilization effort against the government. There is not even anything documented that proves what Correa is claimed to have said about the case. It is all second hand.

Third, there are letters from people who are being prosecuted who say they alerted the former president about a kidnapping attempt, but it has been shown that these letters never reached the hands of the president. It’s another argument that turns out to be completely weak. There were people in government expressing interest in bringing Balda back to Ecuador but through legal processes – by getting him deported from Colombia [which he ultimately was]. In Ecuador, Balda had a criminal sentence to serve. The prosecutor goes after Correa even though the only thing that has been demonstrated is that Balda’s legal deportation from Colombia was being pursued. Moreover, former President Correa wasn’t even pursuing it. That was up to the authorities who were in charge of the internal and external security of the state. It’s another of the prosecutor’s arguments that are easily answered. Then there are a number of details having to do with checks that were issued and testimony by one “Raúl Ch”that are dubious, contradictory and undermine the prosecutor’s case.

In short, the arguments the acting prosecutor is using to pursue former President Rafael Correa are absolutely feeble. The judge disregarded the feebleness of those arguments, but additionally the case should not have even been allowed to proceed [without National Assembly authorization] but what they did next is worse. The judge, when determining pretrial conditions for Correa, established measures beyond what the prosecutor himself requested. The prosecutor requested that as a precautionary measure – given that the former president has collaborated with the investigation – that he appear regularly before the Ecuadorean consulate in Belgium. The judge responded in a very questionable way. First, she asked the acting prosecutor to reformulate his request for precautionary measures when that is the prosecutor’s job. She was clearly looking for the prosecutor to request pre-trial detention by arguing that the consulates do not have the competence to receive a person who appears by court order. This argument the judge made is absolutely false since the Foreign Service Law establishes that the consulates can comply with this kind of order from a judge. The penal code itself states that if a judicial authority establishes provisions, authorities of the state in general have to comply. Judge Camacho’s claim that the Foreign Service Law does not give consulates that capacity is completely cynical. It reveals political animosity.

And when she asked the acting prosecutor to reformulate his request – clearly looking for harsher pre-trial conditions – the persecutor reminded her “You have the authority to set them. This is what the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code says and therefore, if you so order that the consulates are obliged to accept this order you give them “. In the end the judge ordered that Correa must appear periodically [every 15 days] before a court here in the city of Quito even though it is common knowledge that he lives in Belgium. She made the legally inadequate claim that he has two addresses and therefore must periodically appear Quito. Everyone knows he lives in Belgium as he said repeatedly he was going to move to Belgium [where his wife is from] for several months before he finished his final term as president. The judge set an obvious trap for the former president not to appear and thus have an excuse to order pretrial detention.

JE: On social media I noticed that many of Correa’s detractors were totally enraged that judge Camacho requested National Assembly authorization and called for her to be sacked. Do you think she became more extreme in response to media and other pressures? [Moreno’s handpicked “Transitional” Citizens Participation Council appointed an interim Judicial Council which has announced that it will be evaluating all judges and dismissing those who “fail”.]

VH: All these arbitrary acts are possible because, as Noam Chomsky might say, the media has worked hard to “manufacture consent” for the idea that one way or another Correa must be indicted. It is very clear that the media play a central role. This persecution would not be possible without the big media networks and the use of media power.

Both the actions and the aversion shown by the acting prosecutor and the judge during the bond hearing clearly reveal that there will be no objective handling of the case – and also that the context that we live in Ecuador, when there are authorities that are hand-picked without any constitutional legitimacy by the “Transitional” Citizen Participation Council, sets up a scenario of political persecution. We are without a doubt living through “lawfare” here in Ecuador and it is directed towards Rafael Correa and the main leaders of the Citizens Revolution.

Now, what we feared has in fact happened. Correa appeared at the consulate in Belgium, but the judge ruled that this was a violation of his pre-trial conditions and replaced the order to appear in Quito with an order of pre-trial detention. She did all this in one hearing disregarding a requirement for 72 hours’ notice before changing the pre-trial conditions. Her stated justification for doing that was based on “procedural economy”, but in criminal matters one cannot invoke procedural economy if it violates rights as has now been done with Rafael Correa. All these arbitrary acts against the Citizen Revolution are perpetrated with the complicity of the media whose silence over unconstitutional actions are aimed at ending what they call “correísmo”

JE: There was a news article I read in El Telegrafo (a government run newspaper) that basically argued that prosecuting Correa is fine because former President Jamil Mahuad was also prosecuted (in a case that was initiated years before Correa first took office in 2007).

VH: When the judge asked for authorization to prosecute Rafael Correa, she cited the precedent that had previously been used to prosecute Jamil Mahuad. Authorization had also been requested by the national congress of that time. And although the Congress also said that it was not competent, let’s not forget that this decision was made with 2/3 of its members and not as in this case that is taken by a simple majority.

Mahuad’s defense team has argued that his case be dismissed on those grounds [of not being authorized].

JE: Looks to me like they have a valid argument, not that anyone should defend Mahuad’s disastrous policies.

VH: Yes and in fact and that was cited by the judge herself. The organic code of the judicial function is clear that authorization from the assembly is required in this case. It does not allow the judge to accept, as she did in Correa’s case, that the National Assembly returns her request saying it is inappropriate. According to what our legal regulations say, the National Assembly cannot assess whether or not a request from a competent authority (in this case a judge of the national court) is appropriate. It has to comply with what the judge requested. If that is not done, it violates the autonomy and authority of the judiciary if a judge’s order is disregarded.

JE: Do you think Mahuad’s case should have been halted on these grounds? 

VH: I don’t want to go into the details of something that I do not have very clear in my memory. My concern is relating what is happening at this time with the case of former President Rafael Correa.

JE: You were heavily involved with protests by indigenous groups like CONAIE during the 1990s against neoliberal economic policies. I’ve personally noticed since the 2010 coup attempt against Correa that they’ve become quite reactionary. They recently publicly “recognized” Cesar Trujillo, one of Moreno’s key handpicked members of the “Transitional” Council of Citizens Participation.

VH: Since about the end of the 1990s and the beginning of this century I would say what is evident in CONAIE is that a current became dominant that we’d call a “conservative indigenist” current that has put everything into what they call the “ethnic cause” and left aside the causes of social movements and the left in the country. That explains not only what you describe (these tributes to people like Cesar Trujillo) but also that in the last presidential campaign they openly supported the candidate of the oligarchy and the banks, Guillermo Lasso. It is very clear for almost two decades they lost course and have been useful to the oligarchic groups that have always rabidly opposed Rafael Correa and the Citizens Revolution.

JE: How is the new party the movement is working on organizing going to correct the errors that led to people like Lenin Moreno being in positions of leadership?

VH: The first thing we have to do now is to overcome the political blockade. The political persecution we face is seeking to dismantle all the laws and norms of the Citizens Revolution. Second we have administrative persecution that goes through an “acting” comptroller who also works illegally. They persecute many of the leaders of the Citizen Revolution that way. Third, there is a judicial persecution of former President Rafael Correa. The fourth element of persecution that must be identified clearly is the political blockade. So far they are preventing us from being able to organize ourselves politically even though it is a constitutional right. Therefore, before thinking about self-criticism and the mistakes we should not commit, at this moment our main priority is to break the political blockade. We seek legal recognition to be able to participate in the democratic arena. This will allow voters to continue supporting Citizens Revocation against this ongoing persecution we face.

JE: I am going to make a comment and you can tell me if you agree. I would say to Rafael Correa that he not be a martyr, that he seek political asylum so that his voice is not silenced. I think his ability to speak out, even if from afar in a limited way through social media and other venues, is crucial to overcoming the one-sided media landscape Moreno has established inside Ecuador.

VH: Actually, today, in a meeting of the national coordinators the movement – the group of legislators [who remained loyal to Correa] Andean parliamentarians, councilors of the city of Quito and other authorities of the movement – we have asked Rafael Correa not to come to Ecuador. We said conditions for a fair trial do not exist, conditions for due process do not exist and that therefore that he should not come and that he should seek international assistance to protect his security and freedom. We agree with your position and we have publicly expressed one like it.

July 10, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

Ecuador judge orders arrest of ex-president Rafael Correa

RT | July 3, 2018

The National Court of Justice of Ecuador has ordered the preventive detention of the country’s former president Rafael Correa and requested that Interpol apprehend him for extradition.

The request for Correa’s detention was filed by the country’s chief prosecutor on Tuesday. The prosecution is accusing Correa, who served as the president of Ecuador from 2007 to 2017, of being involved in the kidnapping of Fernando Balda, a former opposition lawmaker, in 2012 in Colombia – charges that Correa vehemently denies.

Balda himself was charged with orchestrating a foiled coup attempt in 2010. The charges were filed when the lawmaker was in Colombia, from where he was eventually deported to Ecuador in 2012 and served a year in prison for endangering state security.

Correa, who is living in Belgium with his family, is up in arms over the court’s ruling, arguing on Twitter that the request to put him in custody was made without “a single piece of evidence.” He believes the extradition does not stand a chance at the international level.

“How much success will this farce have at the international level? Don’t worry, everything is a matter of time. We will win!” he added.

In a string of tweets, Correa thanked his followers for the outpouring of support he received after the news on the international warrant for his extradition broke. “I thank everyone for their solidarity in the face of this new and serious abuse of justice and my rights,” he tweeted, adding that he doesn’t believe Belgium will comply with the request.

“They will seek to humiliate us and make us have a hard time, but such a monstrosity will NEVER prosper in a State of Law like Belgium,” he wrote.

One of the milestones of Correa’s foreign policy became granting asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2012, who has since been holed up in the country’s embassy in London’s Knightsbridge. The move drew anger from the UK and the US, who sought the whistleblower’s arrest.

Correa was replaced in power by his former ally Lenin Moreno in April last year, after a close-call election. At the time, Correa welcomed Moreno’s victory as a “triumph of revolution.”

However, the two have since fallen out, with Correa branding Moreno a “traitor” and “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” after the latter proposed a constitutional referendum to limit the number of presidential terms, thus barring Correa from seeking re-election in 2021. The referendum held on February 4 ended in a victory for the Moreno government, with the majority of Ecuadorians voting to introduce the changes.

Moreno has signaled there will be a U-turn in the South American country’s foreign policy from Correa’s anti-American posture after he signed a security agreement with the US in April of this year.

The new president also took a tougher stance on Assange, calling him “more than a nuisance” and a “hacker,” which is more in line with the rhetoric coming from Washington. Although Moreno agreed to extend Assange’s asylum, the WikiLeaks founder’s Internet access and visitor rights were restricted over what the Ecuadorian government sees as his controversial online political activity.

Since February, Correa has been a host of his own show ‘A Conversation with Correa’ on RT Spanish, where he has interviewed prominent guests from Latin American political circles and beyond. Among those who sat down with the ex-president on the show were Brazilian ex-Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, Argentina’s ex-leader Cristina Kirchner, American author Noam Chomsky and others.

July 3, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 1 Comment

Panama Papers: Should the Corporate Media Have Been Trusted?

By Joe Emersberger – teleSUR – May 14, 2016

“John Doe” made a bad call when he leaked the Panama papers to the corporate media.

“Can a corporate media system be expected to tell the truth about a world dominated by corporations?” the Media Lens editors once asked rhetorically.

Assuming the best of intentions on the part of whoever leaked the Panama Papers, trusting hundreds of corporate journalists to wage war on income inequality was a bad mistake. However, the corporate media can be trusted to wage war on the enemies of income inequality, in particular progressive governments in Latin America, and use the Panama Papers to do so even if the ammunition they have is pitiful.

Consider an article in the Miami Herald that ran with the mocking headline, “Ecuador’s leader demands release of Panama Papers, and learns he’s in them.” A very similar article with an almost identical headline ran in the UK Independent, and in many other outlets. The article in the Herald began:

“… Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa called out his country’s journalists and boasted that, unlike other countries, he and his government weren’t found in the leak.

However, the secret documents show that he and his estranged brother, Fabricio, caught the attention of anti-corruption authorities in Panama in 2012.”

Anyone who follows Ecuadorian politics will find this very underwhelming. Fabricio Correa is a long-time bitter foe of his brother’s government. Fabricio is also a businessman who has long been accused of being less than ethical by his brother and many other people. That’s old news and it is hardly surprising that it would have “caught the attention” of investigators years ago. How could it not have? A book was written in 2010 – “El Gran Hermano” – alleging that Rafael Correa was complicit with his brother’s corruption and in 2012 Correa won a defamation suit against the authors.

The article in the Herald is convoluted and often unclear, but that actually serves its purpose. It is padded with details that ultimately fail to land a blow against Fabricio Correa, never mind President Correa, but readers unfamiliar with Ecuador, even if left confused by the article, will probably still come away thinking that something damning has been uncovered.

The use of meaningless statistics is another way the article is padded. It says “searching the word ‘Ecuador’ yields more than 160,000 secret documents. Guayaquil, the wealthy coastal city, shows up in 109,000 documents,” as if that refutes Correa’s observation that hostile Ecuadorean journalists who have had access to the documents for a year have not found anything to discredit his government. Correa would be the last person to deny that corruption, in particular tax avoidance by his elite opponents, is still a big problem in Ecuador. That’s one reason why Correa demanded that all the information be released rather than cherry-picked by corporate journalists. Ecuador’s private media led a very dishonest propaganda campaign last year against tax reforms that would have almost entirely impacted Ecuador’s wealthiest 2 percent. Moreover, Guayaquil’s mayor for the past 16 years has been Jaime Nebot, a right-winger who is arguably Correa’s most prominent opponent. Applying the shoddy logic suggested by the article, Nebot and his right wing allies – including his many allies in Ecuador’s private media – are discredited by how often the word “Guayaquil” appears in the Panama Papers.

Reporters are not always so sloppy. When a journalist I recently corresponded with found a Venezuelan opposition member mentioned in the Panama Papers he explained to me that “he was simply mentioned in newspaper articles passed around by IMF staff.”

The article in the Herald also cited an NGO as follows:

“Last year, Transparency International ranked 168 countries and territories on its government corruption index. It found that 106 nations were less corrupt than Ecuador.”

It neglected to mention that the head of the groups’ Chile branch just resigned after being linked to offshore firms. Much more importantly, it has been obvious for many years that a little transparency does not flatter Transparency International (TI).  In 2008, Calvin Tucker wrote a hard hitting piece about a shockingly dishonest report that TI published about Venezuela’s state oil company. He reported “TI says that they ‘stand by their report’ and stand by the person who compiled the data, an anti-Chávez activist who backed the 2002 military coup against democracy.”

The Miami Herald also used the Panama Papers as an excuse to rehash the farcical “suitcase scandal” of 2008.  It was a comical example of the US government using its prosecutors and a more than cooperative media to smear governments it didn’t like – in this case the left governments of Venezuela and (at the time) Argentina. How could the United States possibly claim jurisdiction over a case based on far-fetched allegations that the Venezuelan government had tried to smuggle a suitcase full of cash into Argentina to influence an election? The U.S. government weaseled in by alleging that an “unregistered agent” of Venezuela’s government had come to the United States to convince one of the people involved to keep quiet. There had never been an indictment under this law unless there was an espionage or national security accusation to go along with it. Mind you, several years later the Obama Administration would officially declare Venezuela an “extraordinary threat to the national security” of the United States – and then defend the insane declaration by saying it didn’t mean it. The U.S. media responded with some timid criticism. That should be unsurprising. Media outlets owned by the rich and powerful, whose most influential customers, advertisers, are rich and powerful are not going to lead movements for serious reform, never mind revolution.

None of this is to say that the Panama Papers will not be of any help in the fight against income inequality. Time will tell. There must be a very small number of journalists working in the private media who are genuinely interested in fighting inequality, but one can easily imagine how much more positive impact these leaks may have had. Recall how wisely Edward Snowden singled out Glenn Greenwald as a journalist he could trust. Remember where Julian Assange, a real thorn in the side of the most powerful and violent people in the world, ended up seeking refuge; and never forget how viciously the corporate media turned on him.

The battle against inequality, which is a crucial part of the battle for meaningful democracy, requires a struggle against the corporate media, a real movement to democratize the means of communication, not (a few exceptional corporate journalists aside) collaboration with it.

RELATED:

Panama Papers: The Caribbean Connection

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Ecuador’s Earthquake and the NYT’s Spin Doctors

By Joe Emersberger | teleSUR | April 25, 2016

On April 23, a New York Times article by Nicholas Casey quoted a businessman in the earthquake-ravaged city of Portoviejo complaining about temporary tax increases that Rafael Correa’s government announced to pay for reconstruction which is presently estimated to cost US$2 to US$3 billion. Casey didn’t tell his readers that the areas impacted by the earthquake would be exempt from the new taxes and also given tax cuts.

The article inaccurately reported there would be “a one-time garnishing of government wages for those earning more than US$1,000 a month.” The measure would apply to all wages outside the disaster areas, not just “government wages.” Casey neglected to mention that most Ecuadorians earn less than US$1,000 per month. The average monthly salary is US$574 per month, not exactly a fact that would be common knowledge to the vast majority of NYT readers.

The biggest howler in the article is the assertion that the IMF has been “long shunned” in Ecuador “for its demands to cut government spending”. That’s like saying people avoid dealing with the Mafia because “they‘ve been known to be unpleasant”: true but wildly misleading. By the beginning of the 21st century, the IMF lost a tremendous amount of influence in Latin America because from 1980 to 2000 it had bullied governments into adopting disastrous policies which are known as “neoliberalism.”

Ecuador’s real GDP per capita grew by a pitiful 5 percent from 1980 to 1998 compared to over 100 percent in the previous two decades. Then, in 1999, Ecuador’s banking sector collapsed under the weight of corruption and a neoliberal obsession with “central bank independence” and financial deregulation. By 2000, real GDP per capita fell below what it had been in 1980.

Casey quotes Jose Hidalgo, an economist who has praised Ecuadorian governments of the neoliberal era for having “saved” money. Those governments certainly “saved” for various huge bailouts of Ecuador’s super rich like the infamous “secretization” of 1983 and the bank bailouts in 1999. Those governments also “saved” in order to make interest payments to foreign investors for debt that had often been illegally contracted.

By the time Correa took office in 2007, decades of neoliberalism had left Ecuador’s roads, public hospitals, schools and other basic infrastructure in shambles. The World Economic Forum ranked Ecuador’s roads tenth among 18 countries in the region in 2006. By 2015 they were ranked as the best. The efficiency of Ecuador’s public services, as ranked by the Inter-American Development Bank, rose from next to last among the 16 countries it evaluated to sixth best in the region. Comparative studies by the U.N. found that the quality of Ecuador’s educational system is one of the most improved in the region since 2006.

Economists like Hidalgo don’t generally try to deny the vast improvements in Ecuador’s infrastructure under Correa’s government. Instead they vaguely decry “excessive public spending.” Presumably, Ecuador’s infrastructure and public services should have been left in a deplorable state. Imagine Ecuador’s government refusing to rebuild the damage from the recent earthquake and then bragging about how much money it “saved.”

That sums up the warped logic behind Hidalgo’s view, one that was tragically put into practice during the neoliberal era. Is a country better equipped to confront natural disasters when traveling through the country is badly hampered by dilapidated roads; when hospitals are in short supply and are under equipped and understaffed; when rescue workers and other public servants are poorly paid, inadequately trained and do not have proper equipment?

Casey wrote that oil prices “once fueled a government spending bonanza.” The “bonanza” actually had more to do with clamping down on tax avoidance by the rich and sensibly regulating its financial sector. Real per capita tax revenues doubled between 2006 (the year Correa was first elected) and 2012. At their highest point during Correa’s time in office, inflation-adjusted oil revenues per capita, accounting for costs of extraction, were lower than they were during much of the 1970s and 1980s.

Moreover, early on in Correa’s presidency, Ecuador’s economy suffered a massive external shock due to the global recession of 2009 which drove oil prices down. So even before oil prices collapsed in 2014, Correa’s government did not have exceptionally high oil revenues compared to previous governments.

Another blow from the 2009 global recession was a drop in remittances from Ecuadorians living abroad. One legacy of the neoliberal era is that remittances from Ecuadorians who fled their country during those years became very important to Ecuador’s economy. The fact that Ecuador has reduced poverty by about half during Correa’s time in office cannot be rationally attributed to luck.

Based on resilience to external shocks, there is also no credible argument for returning to economic policies endorsed by Casey’s article. In 2015, Ecuador avoided recession despite losing 7 percent of its GDP to the oil price collapse. In 1987, under the neoliberal government of Febres Cordero, Ecuador went into recession when export revenues dropped by only 1.84 percent of GDP.

Casey never seemed to consider that there were facts and counterarguments to the views expressed by his sources. In the United States, newspapers like the New York Times present Paul Ryan, who wants to eliminate the entire federal government (with the exception of the military) from the U.S. economy, as a serious policy expert. So it isn’t surprising that successful public investment in Ecuador is eagerly presented as wasteful. If you can’t identify extremists and charlatans at home, you probably won’t do so abroad either.

April 26, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ecuador Using Oil Revenue to Build 400 New Schools by 2017

correa_uem_azuay_20-10-2015_crop1445563552306.jpg_1718483346

President Rafael Correa high-fives a boy during his tour of a new school built in the province of Azuay, Ecuador, Oct. 20, 2015. | Photo: Ecuadorean Presidency
teleSUR – October 22, 2015

Ecuador announced Wednesday that the government intends to build 400 new schools by 2017.

Half of the schools will be the state of the art “Millennium Educational Units” that include scientific laboratories, a library, a multi-purpose auditorium, an administrative wing and ample classrooms. The rest will be prefabricated units that can be constructed much faster and will be built in areas with the most urgent need for new schools.

“There is no better way to achieve true freedom than quality education,” President Rafael Correa said Tuesday during a ceremony to inaugurate a new school in the province of Azuay.

The new Millennium Educational Unit opened in Azuay replaces 13 much smaller schools that were sorely lacking in supplies and space needed to provide a quality education.

According to the Andes news agency, the funding for this particular school came from royalties from a nearby mining project. The stated objective of the Correa government is to take the income generated from extraction projects and invest it into strategic sectors such as education in order to move the country away from its dependence on non-renewable resources.

Ecuadorean law also stipulates that a portion of the income generated by extraction projects be reinvested into the region where the project is located.

Correa says his government had invested at least US$20 billion in education over the past eight years of his administration. The Ministry of Education provides free school supplies, books, uniforms, and meals in order to reduce barriers for low-income students, with a goal of achieving a 100 percent attendance rate.

The political opposition and right-wing press have criticized the Correa government over its spending. During the inauguration ceremony Correa replied saying, “Ecuador does not spend a lot, it invests a lot, which is different.”

The country has already built 57 of the Millennium Educational Units, with a further 48 under construction. The schools are intended to have a lifespan of 100 years. The prefabricated schools have a shorter lifespan at 25 years but take only 11 weeks to build.

October 23, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

1.5 Million Lifted Out of Poverty in Ecuador under Correa

teleSUR | January 25, 2015

The Ecuadorean National Secretariat for Planning and Development announced on Friday that between the years 2007 and 2014, more than 1.5 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the South American country. These years coincide with the administration of Rafael Correa and the policies of what is known as the Citizen’s Revolution, which recently celebrated 8 years of government.

“The model of government has radically changed,” said Pabel Muñoz, the national secretary for planning and development. The government of Rafael Correa has also dramatically reduced inequality in the country, with the gap between the richest and poorest in the country shrinking. In 2007 the richest earned 42 times that of the poorest, while in 2014 that was reduced to only 22 times.

The 1.5 million lifted out of poverty represents a drop of 14 percent in the poverty rate in the country, with extreme poverty dropping 8 points from 16.5 percent to 8.6 percent.

“Ecuador is a successful country because while reducing poverty, it reduces the gap between the rich and the poor. It has allowed for an increase in consumption and has not registered drops in social indicators. Instead people have climbed the social ladder,” said Muñoz.

These figures were published by the National Secretariat for Planning and Development.

Ecuador has also seen the biggest decrease in the region in the Gini coefficient — a figure that measures inequality in a country — dropping from 0.55 in 2007 to 0.48 in 2012, whereas the rest of Latin America saw a drop from 0.52 to 0.50.

The country has also seen important progress in the field of education, with primary school attendance increasing from 92 percent in 2007 to 96 percent in 2014. There has also been an increase of approximately 1 million more Ecuadoreans enrolled in public education.

Ecuador is now a leader in public investment in the region. Whereas in 2006 social investment constituted the equivalent of 3.6 percent of GDP, social investment is now the equivalent of 11 percent of GDP.

“This is just an example of the achievements of our government, which have been made possible because we have put capital at the service of the people and not the other way around,” said Muñoz.

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Poll Confirms Massive Support for Ecuador’s Correa

teleSUR | December 30, 2014

A poll released Monday revealed that over 60 percent of Ecuadoreans approved of President Rafael Correa’s management of the country.

Correa’s support is “unprecedented” in Ecuador, said the president of the survey institute, Polibio Cordova in a press conference, as the Ecuadorean leader has maintained high levels of support since he was elected in 2007.

“This is an unprecedented case because the presidents used to start [their term] with a quite high level [of popularity] of around 68 percent, and within two or three years, they used to decrease by at least 30 percent, sometimes reaching a 30 or 32 percent of approval,” Cordova explained.

Only 32 percent disapprove of his administration, with eight percent not responding to the survey.

The poll was conducted between December 18-24 with a total of 2,168 participants in 15 cities of the country and an error margin of five percent.

December 31, 2014 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Ecuador leaves inter-American defense treaty

Press TV – February 5, 2014

349427_Ecuador-presidentEcuador has announced its withdrawal from the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, a hemispheric agreement of mutual defense signed in 1947.

On Wednesday, Ecuador Foreign Ministry said President Rafael Correa pulled the country out of the US-led security arrangement on the grounds it is outdated, AFP reported.

The Foreign Ministry said Correa signed a decree on Tuesday, ratifying a decision earlier this month by the National Assembly to withdraw from the treaty.

“Ecuador renounces in all its articles the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance,” the ministry said.

The treaty, commonly known as the Rio Treaty, stipulates that an armed attack against any of the member states is to be considered an attack against all of them.

Ecuador ratified the treaty in 1950.

The move is the latest in a shift away from US-led security arrangements in the region by Ecuador and other leftist Latin American allies.

At the end of an annual meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Bolivia in 2012, the foreign ministers of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua announced their decision to pull out of the treaty, saying the regional defense treaty is a US initiative and membership is not beneficial to them.

February 6, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Ecuador to urge US military withdrawal

Press TV – January 23, 2014

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has announced plans to call for the withdrawal of some US military officers from the South American country.

347245_Rafael-CorreaSpeaking at the Carondelet presidential Palace in the Ecuadorian capital Quito on Wednesday, Correa said his government will ask Washington to withdraw “nearly 50 military personnel” assigned to the US embassy in the Latin American country.

He described the number of American military personnel in Ecuador as “inconceivable,” saying, “Unfortunately, these people have been so infiltrated in all the sectors that what is scandalous appeared normal.”

Correa also noted that Quito was “already taking measures” to address the outsized presence of the US forces.

The remarks came after revelations concerning the presence of four US military personnel in an Ecuadoran military helicopter that came under fire in October last year near the border with Colombia.

“They (the US troops) flew in the helicopters of the air force, of the army. It was normal for foreign soldiers to be flying with our soldiers in frontier areas,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US embassy said it has not received any request from the Ecuadorian government yet.

In 2009, Quito refused to renew an agreement with Washington on counter-narcotics operations after accusing it of financing opposition groups.

January 23, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ecuador: Government Announces End of Cooperation with USAID

By Lucy Adler | The Argentina Independent | December 17, 2013

Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa (photo by Miguel Ángel Romero/Ecuadorean presidency)

Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa (photo by Miguel Ángel Romero/Ecuadorean presidency)

The Ecuadorian government released a statement on Monday announcing that the country would no longer be collaborating with USAID, a US agency for International development.

The Ministry for International Development (SETECI) released a statement explaining the decision to cut ties with USAID. “The last bilateral cooperation programme between Ecuador and the US was signed in 2007 and the projects resulting from this collaboration are now finishing. Given that we have not negotiated a new a agreement, SETECI has informed USAID that they cannot carry out any new projects, nor extend the deadlines of projects currently underway.” The statement added that cooperation would remain suspended “until our governments negotiate and sign a new bilateral cooperation agreement”.

According to the SETECI, since 2007, USAID had invested a yearly average of US$32mn in initiatives in Ecuador, the majority of which were implemented by local and international NGOs.

The United States ambassador in Quito also released a statement on the matter, indicating that over the last two years the two countries had unsuccessfully tried to negotiate “an agreement which would allow USAID’s work in Ecuador to continue”. The statement went on to say that due to the “indefinite freeze on USAID activities” implemented by the Ecuadorian government, the organisation would have to cancel four projects which looked to protect the environment and strengthen civil society, and which were currently underway.

In June 2012, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa had threatened to expel USAID from Ecuador after accusing the organisation of giving financial support to opposition groups and getting involved in the country’s internal politics. At the time he said that other countries in the region were also considering ending relations with USAID.

In May 2013, Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled USAID from Bolivia, stating that the agency was conspiring against his government.

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ecuador: National Assembly Approves Drilling in Yasuní National Park

By Brendan O’Boyle | The Argentina Independent | October 4, 2013

The Ecuadorian National Assembly voted Thursday to permit the drilling for petroleum in two sections of the Yasuní National Park in the country’s eastern Amazon basin. The decision comes just seven weeks after President Rafael Correa announced the failure of the Yasuní-ITT initiative, a project that sought to indefinitely prohibit oil exploration in the Yasuní in exchange for international donations equal to half of the reserve’s projected income.

The approved measure, which will allow oil exploration in the park’s 31 and 49 blocks, was passed with the votes of 108 of the assembly’s 133 members. The assembly cited “national interest” as justification for its decision. Ecuador’s constitution forbids “activities for the extraction of nonrenewable natural resources” except in the case of national interest as determined by the National Assembly.

President Correa says the exploration will only affect .01% of the park. Additionally, the legislation promises the protection of indigenous communities that live in the affected areas and excludes extractive activity from the Yasuní’s “untouchable zone”, the largest section of the park, which is to be preserved in its natural state as a wildlife sanctuary. The project will be run by state-run oil company Petroamazonas.

Fifty days ago, Correa requested authorisation to begin oil exploration within the park, declared a global biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1989. The move has intensified national debate over drilling in the Yasuní and saw the president embark on a countrywide tour to convince oppositional groups of the economic and social need to drill in the wake of the Yasuní-ITT initiative’s failure.

In support of the president’s new initiative were 30 mayors from towns in Ecuador’s Amazon basin who travelled to Quito last month to express their support for the measure. Additionally, just last Friday 180 mayors signed a statement in support of the move to drill in the Yasuní.

However, opposition from ecological and indigenous rights groups remains high. On 28th August, police were accused of firing rubber bullets against protestors who had gathered in response to Correa’s initial remarks on opening the Yasuní up to exploration.

In the past month, the opposition has called for a national referendum, a request denied by the Constitutional Court.

Humberto Cholango, head of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, told Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo that he was confused by the court’s decision. “There was a referendum over bullfighting in 2011, so why would you not consult the people on this issue of such importance, which threatens the lives of indigenous peoples as well as the reserve’s enormous biodiversity.”

Despite the rejection, the opposition pushed until the last moments before the vote.

Three community leaders from Ecuador’s Amazon region were invited to speak before the assembly on the final day of the debate. The first two spoke in favour of the government’s proposal, citing a need for economic development and a belief that the government would do its best to protect the local environment and communities.

The third speaker, a Guaraní woman named Alicia Cawiya, steered away from her prepared speech and delivered an emotional plea in an effort to change the minds of those about to vote.

“All we want is that you respect our territory, which we have preserved and cared for,” pleaded Alicia. “Leave us to live how we want. This is our only proposal.”

October 4, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Laughing at Snowden’s Asylum Requests

Consortium News | July 18, 2013

The mainstream U.S. news media has been chuckling over the “irony” of NSA leaker Edward Snowden asking asylum from Latin American countries purported to suppress press freedom. But the smugness misses both the complex realities abroad and the U.S. government’s own assaults on information, says a group of scholars.

An Open Letter to the Media:

The supposed “irony” of whistle-blower Edward Snowden seeking asylum in countries such as Ecuador and Venezuela has become a media meme. Numerous articles, op-eds, reports and editorials in outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and MSNBC have hammered on this idea since the news first broke that Snowden was seeking asylum in Ecuador.

It was a predictable retread of the same meme last year when Julian Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and the Ecuadorian government deliberated his asylum request for months.

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Of course, any such “ironies” would be irrelevant even if they were based on factual considerations. The media has never noted the “irony” of the many thousands of people who have taken refuge in the United States, which is currently torturing people in a secret prison at Guantanamo, and regularly kills civilians in drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries. Nor has the press noted the “irony” of refugees who have fled here from terror that was actively funded and sponsored by the U.S. government, e.g. from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, and other countries.

But in fact the “irony” that U.S. journalists mention is fantastically exaggerated. It is based on the notion that the governments of Venezuela under Chávez (and now Maduro) and Ecuador under Correa have clamped down on freedom of the press. Most consumers of the U.S. media unfortunately don’t know better, since they have not been to these countries and have not been able to see that the majority of media are overwhelmingly anti-government, and that it gets away with more than the U.S. media does here in criticizing the government.

Imagine if Rupert Murdoch controlled most U.S media outlets, rather than the minority share that his News Corp actually owns – then you’d start to have some idea what the media landscape in Ecuador, Venezuela and most of Latin America looks like.

The fact is that most media outlets in Ecuador and Venezuela are privately-owned, and oppositional in their orientation. Yes, the Venezuelan government’s communications authorities let the RCTV channel’s broadcast license expire in 2007. This was not a “shut down”; the channel was found to have violated numerous media regulations regarding explicit content and others – the same kind of regulations to which media outlets are subject in the U.S. and many other countries.

Even José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch – a fierce critic of Venezuela – has said that “lack of renewal of the contract [broadcast license], per se, is not a free speech issue.” Also rarely mentioned in U.S. reporting on the RCTV case is that the channel and its owner actively and openly supported the short-lived coup d’etat against the democratically-elected government in 2002.

A July 10th piece from the Washington Post’s editorial board – which has never hid its deep hatred of Venezuela, Ecuador and other left governments in Latin America – describes another supposed grave instance of the Venezuelan government clamping down on press freedoms. The editorial, which was given greater publicity through Boing Boing and others, describes the case of journalist Nelson Bocaranda, who is credited with breaking the news of Chávez’s cancer in June 2011. The Post champions Bocaranda as a “courage[ous]” “teller of truth” and dismisses the Venezuelan government’s “charges” against him as “patently absurd.”

In fact, Bocaranda has not been charged with anything; the Venezuelan government wants to know whether Bocaranda helped incite violence following the April 14 presidential elections, after which extreme sectors of the opposition attacked Cuban-run health clinics and homes and residences of governing party leaders, and in which some nine people were killed mostly chavistas.

The government cites a Tweet by Bocaranda in which he stated false information that ballot boxes were being hidden in a specific Cuban clinic in Gallo Verde, in Maracaibo state, and that the Cubans were refusing to let them be removed. Bocaranda later deleted the Tweet, but not before it was seen by hundreds of thousands.

So while the Post dismisses the case against Bocaranda as “absurd,” the question remains: why did Bocaranda state such specific information, if he had no evidence to support it? Indeed, any such evidence would be second hand unless Bocaranda had seen the supposed “hidden” ballot boxes and the actions by the Cubans himself.

The Venezuelan government’s summons for Bocaranda to explain himself is being characterized as a grave assault on press freedom, and perhaps it is an over-reaction – after all, many journalists report false information all the time. But wasn’t Bocaranda’s Tweet irresponsible, especially given the context of a volatile political situation?

In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa has been widely condemned in the U.S. media – in much reporting as well as commentary – for suing a prominent journalist, Emilio Palacio, for defamation. The defamatory content was, in fact, serious. It relates to a 2010 incident in which Correa was first assaulted and then later held captive by rebelling police in what many observers deemed an attempt at a coup d’etat.

Military forces ultimately rescued Correa. But in a February 2011 column referring to the episode, Palacio alleged that Correa had committed “crimes against humanity,” and that he had ordered the military forces to fire on the hospital where he was being held at the time. So Correa sued Palacio for defamation and won. What some U.S. media outlets have failed to mention is that he subsequently pardoned Palacio, and had made clear from the beginning that he would have dropped the lawsuit if Palacio ran a correction.

In other words, all that Correa did was exercise his right as a citizen under the law to sue someone who had printed an outrageous lie about him. This is a right that most elected officials have in most countries, including the United States. Former AP reporter Bart Jones has written:

“Would a network that aided and abetted a coup against the government be allowed to operate in the United States? The U.S. government probably would have shut down RCTV within five minutes after a failed coup attempt — and thrown its owners in jail. Chavez’s government allowed it to continue operating for five years, and then declined to renew its 20-year license to use the public airwaves.”

Considering the massive extent of “national security” overreach following the 9/11 attacks, it is almost incomprehensible to imagine what a U.S. administration’s reaction to a coup attempt would be, but it certainly would not be as restrained as in Ecuador or Venezuela, where a fiercely critical press not only exists, but thrives.

Many commentators have cited Reporters Without Borders [known as RSF, from its French initials] and other media watchdog groups’ criticisms of Ecuador’s proposed new “Organic Law of Communication.” In an example of true irony, such supposedly objective journalists have been more critical of Ecuador’s proposed media reforms than RSF itself has been, which noted that:

“…we think that other provisions conform to international legal standards. They include restrictions on broadcasting hours for the protection of minors, the prohibition of racist and discriminatory content and the prohibition of deliberate calls for violence. Finally, the provisions governing nationally-produced broadcasting content are broadly similar to those in force in most other countries.”

Organizations such as RSF and Freedom House are supposed to be impartial arbiters of press freedom around the world and are rarely subject to scrutiny. Yet both have taken funding from the U.S. government and/or U.S.-government supported organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (which was set up to conduct activities “much of [which]” the “CIA used to fund covertly,” as the Washington Post reported at the time, and which also provided funding and training to organizations involved in the afore-mentioned 2002 Venezuelan coup) and other “democracy promotion” groups.

The NED has spent millions of dollars in Venezuela and Ecuador in recent years to support groups opposed to the governments there. This conflict of interest is never noted in the press, and RSF and Freedom House, when they are cited, are invariably presented as noble defenders of press freedom, for whom ulterior motives are apparently unimaginable.

The true irony in the cases of Snowden, Assange, Manning and others is that the U.S. government, while claiming to defend freedom of the press, speech and information, has launched an assault on the media that is unprecedented in U.S. history.

The extreme lengths to which it has gone to apprehend (witness the forced downing of President Evo Morales’ plane in Austria) and punish (Bradley Manning being the most obvious example) whistle-blowers is clear. Apparently less understood by some U.S. journalists is that it is part of an assault on these very freedoms that the U.S. government pretends to uphold.

The U.S. government’s pursuit of Wikileaks – through grand jury and FBI investigations, and open condemnation of Julian Assange as a “terrorist” – is a blatant attack on the press. It seems too many journalists forget – or willingly overlook – that Wikileaks is a media organization, and that the leaks that have so infuriated the U.S. government, from the “Collateral Murder” video to “Cablegate”, Wikileaks published in partnership with major media outlets including the New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and others.

Now, as Edward Snowden’s leaks are published in The Guardian and other outlets, efforts have been launched to delegitimize journalist Glenn Greenwald, and some in the media have been all too willing to take part in attacking one of their own, simply for exposing government abuse – i.e. doing journalism.

There is a long history of partnership between traditional, corporate media outlets in the U.S. and those in Latin America. Due to a variety of reasons, including educational, class and often racial backgrounds, journalists throughout the hemisphere often tend to share certain biases. It is the journalist’s duty to be as objective as possible, however, and to let the media consumer decide where the truth lies.

Likewise, eagerly going along with double standards that reinforce paradigms of “American exceptionalism” and that overlook the U.S.’ long, checkered human rights history and minimize the importance of over a century of U.S. intervention and interference in Latin America does a great injustice to journalism and the public.

Likewise, media distortions of the state of democracy and press freedoms in countries that are routinely condemned by the U.S. government – such as Venezuela and Ecuador – contribute to a climate of demonization that enables U.S. aggression against those countries and damages relations between the people of the U.S. and our foreign neighbors.

Signed by:

Thomas Adams, Visiting Professor, Tulane University
Marc Becker, Professor, Department of History, Truman State University
Julia Buxton, Venezuela specialist
Barry Carr, Honorary Research Associate, La Trobe University, Australia
George Ciccariello-Maher, Assistant Professor, Drexel University
Aviva Chomsky, Professor of History and Coordinator of Latin American Studies, Salem State University

Luis Duno-Gottberg, Associate Professor, Caribbean and Film Studies, Rice University
Steve Ellner, Professor, Universidad de Oriente, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
Arturo Escobar, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Nicole Fabricant, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology/Anthropology, Towson University
Sujatha Fernandes, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Queens College and the Graduate
Center, City University of New York
John French, Professor, Department of History, Duke University
Lesley Gill, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University
Greg Grandin, Professor, Department of History, New York University
Daniel Hellinger, Professor, Department of Political Science, Webster University
Forrest Hylton, Lecturer, History and Literature, Harvard University
Chad Montrie, Professor, Department of History, UMASS-Lowell,
Deborah Poole, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University,
Margaret Power, Professor, Department of History, Illinois Institute of Technology
Adolph Reed, Jr., Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
Gerardo Renique, Associate Professor, Department of History, City College of the City University of New
York
Suzana Sawyer, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California
T.M. Scruggs, Professor Emeritus, School of Music, University of Iowa
Steve Striffler, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of New Orleans
Miguel Tinker Salas, Professor, Department of History, Pomona College
Sinclair Thomson, Associate Professor, Department of History, New York University
Jeffery R. Webber, Lecturer, School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary, University of
London
Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research

July 18, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment