Ecuador’s mini-Chavez

posted at 9:31 am on April 14, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

Hugo Chavez may be dead, but the tradition of South American despots doesn’t look like it’s over. We can probably expect to be hearing more in the future about Rafael Correa, the recently reelected president of Ecuador. A long time fan of Chavez, Correa has a pretty colorful history in politics, which began with the rather unusual way he chose to be initially sworn in to office.

The ceremony took place in the Andean town of Zumbahua and Mr Correa wore an embroidered shirt typical of some highland villages.

Shamans shook sacred herbs over his head to protect his “Citizens’ Revolution” from evil spirits.

Then, some of the country’s indigenous leaders handed him a sceptre with colourful ribbons to show they accepted him as president.

When you’re an ostensibly democratically elected president and you start off on day one by having somebody hand you a scepter, that should raise some eyebrows right off the bat. But the indigenous tribes represent roughly one quarter of the population in Ecuador, and they were instrumental in getting Correa elected. That changed pretty quickly, though, as the new leader’s heavy handed tactics quickly turned against the people who were ready to crown him.

Indigenous protesters in Ecuador have begun a two-week march across the country against plans for large-scale mining projects.

Several hundred protesters set off from an Amazon province where a Chinese company has been authorised to develop a huge open-cast copper mine.

Ecuador’s main indigenous organisation, Conaie, says mining will contaminate water and force people off their land.

After selling his supporters down the river, what’s a despot to do? Well, following a familiar playbook, a good starting place was obviously to begin targeting the free press who might criticize him. “Free” is a relative term after all, don’t you know. After one of the largest and oldest newspapers in the region had the temerity to question some of his actions, Correa took the debate to a new level.

The angered president responded by filing criminal libel charges against the paper, Palacio and three newspaper executives, a move designed to shut down the publication and send a message: Forget about freedom of the press in this country. The four men were sentenced to three years in prison, and the newspaper was told to cough up $40 million.

Correa has made a crusade of controlling the media in the country he rules. He has closed or seized TV stations and enacted laws that restrict coverage of elections. He has even asked the Organization of American States to muzzle its media observers and suppress its annual report on press freedom in the region.

The president then went on to sue La Hora, another major outlet, (three times) and continues to rack up a record of suppressing dissent or criticism of his regime in any form.

Is it just me, or are things really backsliding in South America? Or maybe it was never as rosy of a picture as I’d thought or hoped. Ecuador isn’t as much of a major player on the international stage as Venezuela, largely because they aren’t sitting on the same sorts of natural resources and they’re just a smaller nation to begin with. But this is a disturbing trend, and Ecuador’s location on the northwest edge of the continent – in a line with Columbia and Venezuela right below Panama – puts them in a sensitive region. This is one more guy we’ll need to keep an eye on in the future.


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…does Sean Penn like him?

KOOLAID2 on April 14, 2013 at 9:36 AM

…Hollywood has to love him!

KOOLAID2 on April 14, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Correa has made a crusade of controlling the media in the country he rules

…JugEars kind of guy!

KOOLAID2 on April 14, 2013 at 9:40 AM

The president then went on to sue La Hora, another major outlet, (three times) and continues to rack up a record of suppressing dissent or criticism of his regime in any form.

The comma should be after the parenthetical phrase.

Is it just me, or are things really backsliding in South America?

Things used to be worse, especially if you go way back to the days of the Incas & Mayas.
It’s pretty much three steps forward, two steps back with that continent.

itsnotaboutme on April 14, 2013 at 9:41 AM

…if he had a brother?

KOOLAID2 on April 14, 2013 at 9:41 AM

They have courageous media, but no freedom.

We have freedom of the press, but the media consist mainly of a bunch of lapdogs.

Are we really that much better off, media-wise?

itsnotaboutme on April 14, 2013 at 9:44 AM

KOOLAID2 on April 14, 2013 at 9:36 AM

heh

cmsinaz on April 14, 2013 at 9:45 AM

I always get a kick out of the fact that Korrea’s father was arrested for trying to smuggle cocaine into the United States.

steebo77 on April 14, 2013 at 9:52 AM

I get an even bigger kick out of the fact that Korrea attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Go Illini!

steebo77 on April 14, 2013 at 9:53 AM

So cool!

Another icon for liberals to praise and admire!

Quick, Hollywood. Run down there to make a movie!

If the violent drunk truther Charlie Sheen is too busy — or in jail — I’m sure Hollywood can get a suitable subbie. How about fat liberal Ed Asner? I hear he’s not doing too much these days except being a rich liberal fat cat collecting Social Security.

Liam on April 14, 2013 at 9:59 AM

…if he had a brother?

KOOLAID2 on April 14, 2013 at 9:41 AM

South Correa?

Shy Guy on April 14, 2013 at 10:16 AM

…if he had a brother?

KOOLAID2 on April 14, 2013 at 9:41 AM

ditto’s.

chemman on April 14, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Actually considering that Correa, went to the U of Illinois, another
analogy comes to mind, he didn’t have the revolutionary baggage of Chavez, or the union one of Morales.

narciso on April 14, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Or maybe it was never as rosy of a picture as I’d thought or hoped.

Not sure why the thoughts and hopes. I spent on/off time in Central and South America and it is all a mix of jolly roger, Che, and Don Corleone. Everywhere. Sure there are some bright spots but all in all it is watch your back amigo.

Limerick on April 14, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Is it just me, or are things really backsliding in South America? Or maybe it was never as rosy of a picture as I’d thought or hoped.

Central and South America, by and large, are always “almost there,” always an “emerging market” but never “fully developed.” The region tends to lurch back and forth chaotically between periods of democracy and dictatorship. Many of those countries have good prospects of being fantastically rich – Venezuela and Argentina are both examples of this – but inevitably the Democratic government becomes corrupt and is overthrown by a dictator in one form or another.

I have come to the conclusion that it is a cultural problem. Of all the countries on in that region only Panama, Costa Rica, and Chile are relatively stable, and even Chile has had a period of dictatorship (though it was comparatively benign, economically speaking, in comparison with what’s happening to Venezuela and Argentina).

Doomberg on April 14, 2013 at 11:24 AM

0bama does the same sort of strong arming of the media here. The difference is that the media does not report it.

jukin3 on April 14, 2013 at 1:04 PM

…does Sean Penn like him?

Julian Assange loves him. They are BFF’s.

myiq2xu on April 14, 2013 at 1:47 PM

Every country has to be burned by socialism to understand its caustic nature.

unclesmrgol on April 14, 2013 at 2:03 PM

Can we finally stop feeling sorry for these poor, oppressed people that always seem to find their way into our country illegally? You get what you vote for-we’re living the ‘nightmare’ too.

RovesChins on April 14, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Little.Yellow.Different.

tom daschle concerned on April 14, 2013 at 8:43 PM