On 18 September, the Consulate of Ecuador in Rio de Janeiro reported its refusal to grant a temporary residency visa to Franco-Brazilian journalist and professor Manuela Picq, who seeks to return to Ecuador. Picq, who had lived Ecuador for over eight years, was violently detained on August 13 during a protest against the Government of Rafael Correa, along with her partner Carlos Pérez Guartambel, an indigenous leader and government opponent. Although a judge rejected Picq’s deportation order, her visa was revoked. With no legal guarantee of her status in the country, she left Ecuador on August 21. Her subsequent application for a Mercado Común del Sur (Mercosur) visa has been denied.
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In an interview with Radio Rayuela, the professor at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) gave more details about her immigration situation.
What reasons did the Foreign Ministry give for denying your application for a Mercosur visa?
The Mercosur visa requires no documentation beyond an application and a couple of photos. There was no reason to deny it and the Foreign Ministry did not give an explanation. That is, we received a letter of three lines which states that the visa application has been rejected, it does not justify or give any legal basis to explain the denial of the visa. The Mercosur visa is granted within the context of the agreement between the Mercosur countries and Ecuador. The next step will be to ask for justification. The visa was denied by the consul of Ecuador in Rio de Janeiro. We will make an appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain on what grounds and why the visa was refused.
How long is this process expected to take? Have you planned some other mechanism to ensure your return to Ecuador?
With this appeal, it falls on the Minister of Foreign Affairs to explain the denial of the visa. We are bringing the case to a higher level within the Foreign Ministry to explain the situation and give legal reasons. The Ministry apparently has two months to respond. Meanwhile, I will try to get a visa as the wife of an Ecuadorian in a lawfully recognized union. But even as we continue this process, we do not know how many visas will be denied. There is no legal basis for anything: for revoking the original or for denying the Mercosur visa. We do not know if they will decide to continue with the destruction of my family with Carlos Pérez. In this context, they may continue to deny visas without respect for Ecuadorian laws or immigration laws; or for the family protection which permits an Ecuadorian with a foreign spouse, or in a lawfully recognized union with a foreigner, to have a permanent visa for their partner.
Do you think this decision is really a political issue?
My case has been political from the start. I have never been accused of anything. I have never committed any offence. I was detained in a very violent way in the street, then I was detained for five days in the Carrión Center (for foreigners with irregular immigration status), my visa was revoked, I had to leave the country. And I was never given any justification for anything. In fact, on August 17, the first judge called for an investigation into the revocation of my visa and my arrest, because both were illegal. It was, therefore, no surprise that once again no justification was given; that once again the Constitution was not respected; that once again there is a violation by the Ecuadorian State. The case of my deportation, of my exile in a way, is a symbol of the Ecuadorian State’s abuse of power, where the Constitution is not respected. We are asking for explanations from the highest levels, for the Government to be held accountable to Ecuadorian society.
A month after you left Ecuador because there were no minimum guarantees for your residency, how has your life been in Brazil?
It is difficult on various levels; on a personal level due to the distance from my home and my family. On a professional level, it is difficult to make plans, both with USFQ and with my life, because I don’t know if I will be able to return to Ecuador in a week, a month or longer. Now, with the denial of the Mercosur visa, we know it will be at least two months before I can return. That means finding a place to live, organizing an economic income, all the logistics of a life in exile, whilst I wait for a more favorable political context for my return. Legally there is no problem. It is a matter of achieving political access and apparently the situation in Ecuador is increasingly difficult, with more press censorship. The persecution of FUNDAMEDIOS is an example. As an academic, journalist and Carlos Pérez’s partner, the pressure will continue to increase. We must wait until the political situation settles down in Ecuador.
You are not thinking of taking your case to international bodies?
Yes, it’s a very good point. For the first time several special rapporteurs from the United Nations and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) have spoken about the case of FUNDAMEDIOS. Last week, we wrote to four rapporteurs for the rights of migrants and of freedom of expression, at the CIDH and the UN. The international mechanisms are activated and now, with the denial of the visa, we will continue to activate other international mechanisms.
Any final comments?
The rest of the world is increasingly aware of Ecuador. Despite the violence, if my case achieved anything, it was to show the world what is happening, to unmask the propaganda state. The façade continues to crumble and one has to have hope that we can build a constitutional state in Ecuador as soon as possible.