Key cases of repression by Rafael Correa’s Government

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According to the book ‘Criminalization of Protest’ by activist Karla Calapaqui, published in January 2016, 82 cases of government repression were recorded in Ecuador between 2007 and 2015, affecting 681 people. Some of the more controversial cases are outlined below, evidencing excessive use of force and rights violations.

Dayuma, 2007. Photo: La Hora.

Dayuma, 2007. Photo: La Hora.

1. Where it all started: The parish of Dayuma in the province of Orellana was the first place to experience militarization and repression by Correa’s Government in 2007. Claiming ‘a serious internal commotion’, a state of emergency was declared across the whole province. There were reports of aggression against the people, torture, threats of rape and arbitrary detentions.

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2. Social organizations: The book states that the Government has stigmatized social organizations of workers, teachers, doctors, indigenous groups, traders and ecologists. Notable examples include the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE for its Spanish acronym), the National Union of Educators (UNE) and the United Workers’ Front (FUT), which have led social mobilizations.

3. Political organizations: Political opposition groups have been discredited and sometimes even persecuted and prosecuted. Two examples are the Popular Democratic Movement (MPD), which was controversially removed from the electoral register; and the Pachakutik Movement, which is constantly subjected to insults such as ‘crazy indigenous’, ‘golden ponchos’ and ‘infantile indigenous.’ The Rupture of the 25 Movement was labelled a traitor, sanctioned by the National Electoral Council and removed from the electoral register.

4. Professional Associations: Lawyers who defend criminalized leaders and other victims of repression are constantly persecuted. In 2015, the Judicial Council, based on criteria such as ‘abuse of law’, initiated proceedings to crack down on lawyers who defend detained protestors.

Journalists Juan Carlos Calderón and Cristian Zurita. Photo: El Universo.

Journalists Juan Carlos Calderón and Cristian Zurita. Photo: El Universo.

5. Journalists: Reporters critical of the Government have also been persecuted during the last nine years. Cristian Zurita and Juan Carlos Calderon were sued for moral damages after the publication of their book, The Big Brother. Roberto Aguilar’s articles led to him being summoned by Fernando Alvarado, then Secretary of Communication, to give a judicial confession. Cartoonist Bonil has been sanctioned by Supercom and prosecuted by a ruling party Congressmember.

6. Fundamedios: The Andean Foundation for Media Observation & Study (Fundamedios) has suffered systematic attacks by the Government for defending freedom of expression. In September 2015, the Communications Secretariat (SECOM) initiated an administrative process to dissolve the organization. Faced with an outpouring of national and international outrage, the process was shelved ‘with a warning.’

7. For denouncing corruption: Paul Chambers, Victor Hidalgo, Gerardo Portillo and José Quispe, members of an oversight committee formed by Rafael Correa to investigate State contracts with companies linked to his brother Fabricio Correa, concluded that Correa knew about the contracts. They were charged with giving false testimony and sentenced to two years in prison.

8. Intimidation via social networks: Political leader Sebastian Cevallos was one of the first Twitter users to be prosecuted in Ecuador, for denouncing a case of nepotism. In another case, the Councilor for Loja, Jeannine Cruz, was sentenced to 30 days in prison for a tweet which referred to the Mayor of Loja, José Bolívar Castillo. The plaintiff accused Cruz of “uttering expressions of discredit and disgrace.” Twitter users critical of the regime have had their accounts blocked and suspended. Others have been threatened, such as the administrator of the political satire Facebook page Crudo Ecuador, who closed the page after receiving a bouquet of flowers and a letter threatening him and his family on February 19, 2015.

Injured man in a protest at Saraguro, 2015. Photo: Acción Psicosocial.

Injured man in a protest at Saraguro, 2015. Photo: Acción Psicosocial.

9. Torture: Leaders and protesters arrested during demonstrations have reported being subjected to disproportionate violence and torture. For example, during the September 2014 protests, over 90 students from Mejia College were arrested. Many of them reported being threatened, kicked, punched and shot with tasers. One protestor even reported being hit by a motorcycle. Another case reported by international bodies was that of environmental Margoth Escobar, in 2015. After participating in demonstrations against the Government, the 61 year old woman was arrested and brutally assaulted.

10. Unsolved deaths: Teacher Bosco Wisuma was fatally shot in 2009 during a strike by the National Union of Educators (UNE) and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (CONAIE). Freddy Taish, a young Shuar man, was killed during a military operation against artisanal mining. José Tendentza, an anti-mining resistance leader who was about to participate in the People’s Summit in Lima, was found dead in 2014 with signs of violence. Military leader General Gabela was killed in circumstances that have not been clarified after he opposed the purchase of Dhurv helicopters. Journalist Fausto Valdivieso was assassinated in 2013.

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