Ecuador ranks third in the world (after the United States and Kazakhstan) on the purchase of devices with high espionage capabilities. Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks and an asylee in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, who the Government of Ecuador though would guarantee their ‘silent espionage’, denounced them and damaged the ‘intelligence’ recently tainted by the Hacking Team international scandal.
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However, espionage in the Government of Rafael Correa is not new. Here is a chronology.
May 21, 2007. The first allegation of espionage came from former ‘aide’ Quinto Pazmiño, hired by the then minister of economy Ricardo Patiño to install cameras to record conversations, i.e., to spy in the Ministry of Economy. Patiño himself confessed to this without blushing.
July 18, 2007. Several private media had been involved in the debate on the ‘Pativideos’, which worried the government to the point of making the first censorship attempt. President Rafael Correa issued Executive Decree No. 468, an amendment to article 80 of the Regulations of the Broadcasting and Television Act, to prevent the free broadcasting of recordings not legally authorized. Congress rejected this amendment with 56 votes of 79 representatives.
September 1, 2007. Quinto Pazmiño was apprehended. He had threatened to make public other videos with recordings of private acts. His defense lawyer denounced abuse and death threats in prison towards his client who suffered from hypertension.
April 24, 2010. After being released, Pazmiño died of a heart attack. Later, his wife María Chancay was killed by hired assassins.
August 19, 2009. Fernando Balda, who had been part of the ruling party Alianza País, denounced the alleged existence of an intelligence office in the Presidency, with equipment provided by the Venezuelan Government of Hugo Chávez, and which intercepted phone calls from politicians and was operated by the national police.
August 29, 2009. Ricardo Patiño, then Policy Coordinating minister, accompanied by the Legal Secretary of the Presidency of the Republic, Alexis Mera, filed two lawsuits against Fernando Balda at the Attorney General’s Office. Balda was sentenced to 2 years in prison for “non-libelous grievous injury”.
December 3, 2010. Three alleged journalists from GamaTV, a channel seized by the State, were arrested due to a persecution accusation made by Assemblyman Galo Lara of the opposition party Sociedad Patriótica. Days later, Lara said that the public opinion had been led to believe that the so-called journalists detained by the police worked for the State channel GamaTV, but they were actually Vinicio Betancourt, Wilson Vaca and Francisco Cevallos, who carried presidential credentials and were possible agents. He presented police reports and various photographs of the credentials and of the vehicle in which the so-called journalists moved around as evidence.
June 29, 2012. Army Captain Diego Vallejo and citizen Segundo Galiano Játiva were arrested in the vicinity of the National Court of Justice carrying two guns, a sketch of the residence of the President of the Transitional Judiciary Council, Paulo Rodríguez, and photographs of Hugo Reyes Torres, a former inmate of the Ecuadorian courts for drug trafficking. According to data from the press, Vallejo, a consultant specialized in money laundering, served as advisor and consultant for the then Minister of Justice and current Minister of Internal Affairs, José Serrano. Later, Vallejo revealed that Serrano had been investigating the accounts of former Attorney General Washington Pesántez and that he had ordered the international surveillance of Fernando Balda.
April 23, 2013. Captain Diego Vallejo was declared guilty of illicit association and on May 31, 2013, a sentence of one year’s imprisonment for the illegal possession of weapons was added on. Vallejo said that he was the victim of a plot, that they planted evidence to send him to jail because of everything he knew. He was released on November 28, 2013.
April 2008. Jorge Gabela was the first Commander of the Ecuadorian Air Force (FAE; in Spanish) of this government (January 2007 – April 2008). He tenaciously opposed the purchase of seven Indian helicopters (and he was right, four already went down). Gabela requested his discharge and his successor, General Rodrigo Bohórquez, completed the purchase of the helicopters. Gabela kept making allegations and ‘intelligence’ began to monitor him.
December 19, 2010. Gabela was mortally wounded inside his home, on the Samborondón road (Guayas). He died after 10 days of agony. His wife, Patricia Ochoa, told the press: “this was not a robbery because they did not take anything. (…) All they did was wound my husband with the intention of killing him…”
Journalists under surveillance by intelligence
Journalists are also under surveillance and even harassed. President Correa publicly denounces their private life (with data collected by ‘intelligence’) and incites people to take action against them.
July 3, 2009. Four men entered the headquarters of Vanguardia magazine; they tied up the feet and hands of journalists and designers making death threats. They took all that had been written about a complaint.
January 17, 2010. Doctor Alfredo Negrete, Executive Director of the Ecuadorian Association of Newspapers, in Quito, left his home and when he returned, noticed that his house had been ‘thoroughly searched’ by strangers who only took two items of little value. At that time the Communications Bill was being debated.
August 16, 2012. Journalist Orlando Gómez, editor of the newspaper La Hora and correspondent for the Colombian magazine Semana, published his article: ‘Ecuador and obstacles to the press’. On the morning of that day, he was chased by a motorcycle and a car, from which emerged an unidentified man who threw a heavy rod at the journalist’s vehicle. Gómez later received a threatening call at his home. They said “beware son of a b… and stop making the country look bad”.
September 24, 2012. Journalist Gonzalo Rosero, director of Radio Democracia of Quito reported that “for a while now, this journalist has been dangerously under surveillance…” His son, Álvaro Rosero added that his father had been chased by some people in unidentified cars, and one of them made menacing signs at him.
National Secretariat of intelligence, Correa’s whip?
When criticized or insulted by a Twitter user, President Correa immediately calls the National Intelligence Secretariat (Senain) to investigate. An example:
April 11, 2013. At 22:00, three hooded men killed journalist Fausto Valdiviezo, with whom Correa had had a verbal confrontation.
Correa described this murder as a “tragedy” and said “they would never spare any resources to uncover the truth” (a truth which is currently still not known). Twitter user @basoledispa wrote: @MashiRafael Correa you are so hypocritical! You have no respect for anyone! You miserable! You insult him and harass him and now you are “concerned”? Have some dignity!” Immediately Correa wrote via his Twitter account @MashiRafael: “@basoledispa SENAIN: Please check into this”. On his Saturday broadcast of April 13, the President explained that he had the twitter user investigated. Fortunately, she lived abroad but that did not save her from receiving “a flower bouquet”.