A Lesson from Ecuador
While international pressure helped save an opposition newspaper, free speech and democracy are still at risk.
8:30 AM, Mar 19, 2012 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Beyond these problems, Ecuador is also beset with rising drug violence. That is partly a result of geography: Its location between Colombia and Peru makes it a major transit point for South American drug trafficking. According to the Los Angeles Times, roughly one-fourth of the annual cocaine output in the two neighboring countries ultimately moves through Ecuador. Last month, Ecuadorean police arrested a prominent trafficker with ties to gangs in both Colombia and Mexico. Elyssa Pachico, an expert on criminal activity in Latin America, fears that organized crime “may yet turn into a national crisis” if authorities don’t respond adequately. Unfortunately, it is unclear how much Ecuadoreans can trust their president when it comes to drug-trafficking outfits. In May 2011, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies published a report accusing Correa of soliciting financial aid from the Colombian FARC during his 2006 presidential run.
Whether or not he still has significant links to the FARC, Correa has been faithfully copying the Chávez playbook and making his country more and more like the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” Despite backing down from his lawsuit against El Universo, he remains unapologetic about his war with the opposition media. After Correa announced the pardons, Inter American Press Association president Milton Coleman said, “What the Ecuadorean people cannot lose sight of is that there will continue the precedent of a president coercing his country's press with legal threats.” Indeed, foreign journalists must remain vigilant about supporting their Ecuadorean counterparts.
Jaime Daremblum is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.