You should hear Rafael Correa when he has no other alternative but to criticize the military: he is careful, vulnerable, he treads with care and handles them with kid gloves. He is no longer arrogant.
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Estado de Propaganda
In his Saturday broadcast, Citizen Link no. 450, on 14 November of 2015, the president launched an attack against Juan Pablo Albán, the human rights lawyer who represents the victims (three ex-guerrillas from the group Alfaro Vive Carajo) in the trial for crimes against humanity against seven generals from the Armed Forces. The president dedicated “the drivel of the week” to Albán and called him a “pseudo-activist for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) gang”. This is the sixth time that Correa has insulted Albán in his Saturday monologues. Previously, he called him a “despicable agitator”. Onward and upward (or downward, depending on your point of view). However, when addressing the military high command, the thirty generals who attended the trial this week in their military dress uniforms and their medals to support those accused and to pressurize the court, without the least bit of tact or decency, to them…Ah! He addresses them “with great affection”. For them, he tones down and measures his words. And, he assures that “they did not attend the court with bad intentions”. Come on! Their show of force is only “unfortunate”, it is “irrelevant”. The president asked, did they want to intimidate the judges? And, he answered: “God forbid”.
All of this seems very confusing. It was the Correísta government that revived the old Alfaro Vive Carajo militants and made them heroes, decorating them and appointing them as assembly members or ministers. Not those who, like Juan Cuvi, revised their positions, renounced the armed conflict with conviction, embraced democracy and today are in opposition, but the others: those who still believe in the legitimacy of violence as long as they rise up against a government other than their own. It is the Correísta system (the same system that today wants to amend the Constitution so that the military control public order) that has made these trials possible.
It is a pity. And, it is a waste, because Correísta justice distorts everything it touches. What should be a human rights trial, and an opportunity to punish those who tortured, sexually abused and were responsible for the enforced disappearance of people, has become a tug-of-war with a military institution that feels attacked by the civil authority. After the generals’ unacceptable show of epaulettes and medals in the court this week, and having heard the president’s half-hearted gibberish last Saturday, it is evident that in this tug-of-war the military won the first point in dispute.
An absent-minded person would say no, Correa did criticize the generals. Yes, he did, but he also declared himself a friend of those accused (he only named one that he does not like) and said: “This situation pains me a great deal”. He repeated time and time again that the final decision in this case falls to the judges, but he also sent them a message: “I have–he said–my own opinion about this trial, it does not coincide with the opinion of the public prosecutor”. That’s good to know, because in matters related to justice, and in any other matter, there is no doubt that Rafael Correa’s opinion is the one that counts. And then, of course, there are the insults against Juan Pablo Albán. That the president chose the same Saturday to publically scorn him, although it was for other reasons, is not and could not be a coincidence. Quite the opposite, it is a clear message which at this point should be understood in the barracks, and in the courts.
Well, if everything is unclear in this case, while the president attacked Albán in his Saturday address, the more radical anti-Correístas did the same on social networks: “Correa the swine”, they wrote. “Damn terrorist”.
And, this is also a pity. The fact that Correísmo manipulates justice as it pleases, while it acts like an elephant in a china shop with the military, and uses the ancient ex-guerrillas, who now support Correísmo, in order to give a pathetic lesson on what it believes to be democracy, all of this should not make us forget that there was a dirty war in Ecuador. In Ecuador, people were systematically and treacherously killed, tortured and sexually abused. People disappeared, others were taken by surprise at night and killed in their beds, unarmed. And no, it was not the excessive behavior of a few bad members: it was State policy. The civil authorities in Ecuador, who have not been and will not be brought to trial, talked about killing turkeys on Christmas Eve. They talked about extermination, without any shame. They dehumanized their enemies like the fascists used to do; they called them maggots, rats, vermin…every day. In Ecuador, when León Febres Cordero was in power, torture was not an anomaly; it was the protocol that the police and military applied religiously every time they detained a suspect who was a member of the guerrillas. Sticks, electric prods, drowning…This is fact.
Considering all of this, the fact that general José Gallardo, war hero and whatever else, now says that “what they (the military) did was carry out their duties”, is something that does not just cause outrage, it is revulsive. The fact that the presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso congratulated the generals who were in the court pressurizing the judges, and who also sings the praises of the national security doctrine that was applied during the dirty war, and who affirmed that the torturers and murderers “acted in the defense of citizens”…well, it gives reason to doubt not only his political insight but also his human sensitivity or his intelligence, one of the two. All of this is despicable. And, it is frightening.
To be in opposition is one thing. Human rights is a different matter.
Yes, in Ecuador there was a dirty war and no one has paid for it. And, it is a pity, a real shame and an absolute disgrace that the Correísta justice system today puts on a farce with political pretensions and that it ends up becoming a measure of strength with a military institution that seems to have learned nothing of democracy. Who were they going to learn from? From the Correísta State? No. This week, the high command ended up doing the only thing that, based on experience, works when prosecuted by Correísmo: pressurize the judges. Those who can do this are lucky, common citizens have to face the consequences. Of course, it is a scandal, and it would be a grave error for it not to be considered a scandal just because it is Correísta justice. Ultimately, these matters are not resolved in the courts but in Carondelet. From this point of view, and following the logic that Correísmo has imposed, what the generals did (attend the court to send a message to Carondelet) could even be an irreproachable act. In fact, the president (or commander in chief) said that he is not going to punish the generals. How could he have the nerve to punish them when he does the same? Is it not his example that they followed? He knows it perfectly well and he knows that with the military it is hopeless. He would not tolerate this from anyone else, but from them…
The trial of those responsible for the dirty war could be an opportunity for the country to unite over a common democratic cause, lay the ghosts from the past to rest and embrace the truth. In the hands of Correísmo, it has turned into a comedy act. Nothing exposes the institutional farce of the Ecuadorian Republic today better than the much vaunted first trial in its history for crimes against humanity. In the trial, everything is depicted clearly: A justice system incapable of moving beyond political logic. A government that puts principals, truth and justice on the negotiating table. A military institution with sufficient nerve and audacity to suggest that while its members are well paid, their privileges are respected, their new toys are bought for them and nobody messes with them, they will be willing to obey the most preposterous orders, even committing torture and crimes “to fulfil their duty”.
The good news that can be taken from all of this is the fact that Correísmo does not control the military. It is something, and at least the constitutional reform that plans to put them in charge of public order is on shaky ground. And, we are certain that Ecuador will not become like Venezuela.
It won’t, it’s true, but it is still repulsive.