Certain examples demonstrate the far reaching capacity of a State which uses its intelligence apparatus for purposes other than those for which it was designed. One such example is the monitoring by the Ecuadorian Government of citizens’ organizations such as the environmental collective Yasunídos, whose leaders were tracked as they undertook the constitutional activity of collecting signatures calling for a referendum. Another example is the development of files on journalists and politicians.
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One such file is from August 30, 2013. In the document, 14 paragraphs summarize the biography of María Josefa Coronel, presenter of the news program 24 Horas on the Teleamazonas channel. The biography includes her age; the identity of her husband; a report that she did not vote in the last election; details of her law degrees and lack of qualifications in social communication. The document also contains Coronel’s data from the Trade Register as an agent of a company; the registered name of the company; her movements abroad; and the date of her last trip. Also detailed are the shares held by Coronel, with data on the company from the Superintendency of Companies: its tax registration number; income tax data; and any judicial proceedings against the company and as plaintiff.
The report cites press releases on Coronel, spanning from 2005 to the date the document was issued, and her statements on 30S (the police revolt of September 30, 2010). Also included are the names of her parents and their home addresses; data on her husband; and some newspaper articles written by Coronel.
Eight similar files outline the biographies of Mery Zamora and Andrew Paez. But the most voluminous file details the activities of Yasunídos: its relationships and leading activists; and details of legal complaints that the collective raised and published in the media and on its social networks.
The 60-page report cites the National Intelligence System as its source. The document recounts in detail, minute by minute and step by step, the march which Yasunídos and other collectives undertook in 2014 to deliver signatures to the National Electoral Council (CNE). The signatures had been collected to petition for a referendum on whether to exploit for oil in Yasuní National Park.
The first part of the report consists of data on the people who attended the overnight encampment in the El Arbolito Park in Quito on Friday April 12, 2014, and those who participated in the march to the CNE the following day. The names, photographs and activities of the march leaders and their companions appear in multiple slides: Esperanza Martínez, Andrés Quishpe, David Mármol, Carlos Pérez Guartambel, Julio César Trujillo, Paúl Velázquez, Milton Gualán, Alonzo Cueva, Alberto Acosta, Lourdes Tibán, Jaime Guevara, Roque Sevilla and Natasha Rojas.
The file also contains an “intelligence assessment on the collection of signatures by Yasunídos, up to January 24, 2014”. This document details how the signature collection process was monitored. For example, the report on the province of Azuay described collection activities between October 18, 2013 and January 22, 2014: “14 to 24 November: ECUARUNARI began a signature collection effort over several days in the following cantons: Paute, Gualaceo, Sigsig, San Fernando, Santa Isabel … ” Other collection efforts were also detailed: the Federation of University Students gathered signatures at the University of Cuenca, where 550 signatures were recorded. A report from Loja on November 23, 2013: “The Children of Pachamama collected signatures in Muna Loa Bar”. 90 signatures are recorded. Also from the Loja province, there are reports of signature collection campaigns lasting nine days. The monitoring of the collection efforts goes as far as New York, as this entry from October 30 shows: “The Yasunídos collective and members from the Committee on Migrants who support the non-exploitation of Yasuní will hold a community forum to discuss the exploitation of the Park, led by Carlos Pérez of ECUARUNARI”. 70 signatures are reported from the event. The Intelligence System (SIN for its Spanish acronym) reports that 20,940 signatures were collected before January 24, 2014.
The SIN reports that 37 fixed signature collection points were identified nationwide, 23 of them in the province of Pichincha. It goes on to state that one of Yasunídos’ “main strategies is to go to the places where there is a great influx of people, such as public events, dancing and music shows, etc.”
Intelligence services were well aware of the difficulty of collecting signatures, as shown in a section of the report entitled “The Yasunídos collective’s new strategies for dealing with low signature collection numbers nationwide.” Here, it was reported that Esperanza Martínez (Yasunídos member and President of NGO Acción Ecológica) acknowledged that the signature collection goals set by the collective were not being met. The report states that the “people who stand firm and support the collection process are Patricio Chávez from Amazonía por la Vida, Ivonne Ramos and Benito Bonilla, who were pressuring Esperanza Martínez not to withdraw, to keep going with the campaign.” The report notes that the campaign had been weakened by raids on the homes of Fernando Villavicencio and Cléver Jiménez, which “have led to a climate of uncertainty within Yasunídos. This has significantly affected those responsible for carrying out the collection of signatures. Presumably Esperanza Martínez could withdraw from the campaign.” The document continues by outlining the steps of Yasunídos’ new strategy; information which was only available within the organization.
The report includes sections on the main coordinators in Quito and Guayaquil, with their telephone numbers. It also mentions that “there is a group of 21 brigadiers who receive a monthly allowance of $400 to collect 40 signatures per day.”
Intelligence services also looked at Yasunídos’ financial structure and links. The report mentions that NGO Oilwatch acts as Yasunídos’ finance department, receiving national and international financing for the collection of signatures. There is a detailed report on Yasunídos member David Marble, around whom a network of contacts is established, including their professions and places of work. Attached to the report are the income and payroll records for Esperanza Martínez and Patricio Chávez of Oilwatch. All expenses incurred by the environmental group Acción Ecológica are also listed; again, information which is clearly of an internal nature.
Monitoring of foreigners who support Yasuní
The National Intelligence System holds records on Seigmund Thies, Joke Irma, Gerarda Baert, Kevin Koenig and Matt Finer. Each record contains a biographical summary with the person’s history in Ecuador; and details of their telephone and email communications.
Seigmund Thies’ report notes that he is 57, a German national living in Ecuador for 17 years. His migratory movements are detailed, along with his relationship with the Pachamama Foundation. Thies is a correspondent and documentary maker, under suspicion for several pro-Amazon documentaries.
A full record also exists on Kevin Koenig, said to be an internationally recognized environmental activist. According to his file, he is the program coordinator for Amazon Watch in Ecuador and his network of contacts spans both Ecuador and the United States.
Is this ‘monitoring’ legal?
The right to privacy is protected by international law and by the Ecuadorian Constitution (Art. 66.19 and 66.20). The law states that everyone must be protected against arbitrary or unlawful interference of privacy, family, home or correspondence, as well as unlawful attacks on honor and reputation.
The term “unlawful” means that no interference can take place except in cases provided by law, or when express permission has been given. That law is the Comprehensive Criminal Code (COIP).
The expression “arbitrary interference” can also extend to interference provided for by law. i.e., there may be interferences allowed by law and in compliance with formal requirements, but which are arbitrary. Interference is considered arbitrary when it is unreasonable, abusive or motivated by reasons outside the law (e.g. not to investigate crimes but to undertake political persecution).
In these cases, with the investigations into Yasunídos or María Josefa Coronel, what crimes were being investigated?
Within the Ecuadorian legal system, the only body allowed to authorize interference is a judge, provided there is a substantiated request from a Public Prosecutor and indicators exist that interference is relevant for a criminal investigation (Art. 472.2 and 476 of COIP). Consequently, the President of the Republic, the security and intelligence agencies, prosecutors, and ministers of State cannot order interference of data or personal activities because they lack the competence and would be committing a crime.