“Unlike the dictatorships of the past, which took power with a coup d’état, closed down the Congress and replaced the president, the dictatorships of the XXI Century ignore the constitutional order under which they were elected and create a new constitutional order that allows them to stay in power,” according to a former Latin American leader.
“After a while, they become dictatorships,” former Ecuadoran president Osvaldo Hurtado asserts in Dictatorships of the XXIst Century. The title “mocks Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, [current Ecuadoran President Rafael] Correa (left) and other autocratic presidents’ claims that they are building a ‘Socialism of the XXIst Century’,” writes Andreas Oppenheimer.
“The answer should come from the Organization of American States (OAS,) since these governments are violating several articles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” Hurtado said. “But unfortunately, the OAS has remained silent. There seems to be a double standard, in which the OAS lashes out against dictatorships of the right, but not against dictatorships of the left.”
Correa this week vowed to make Ecuador’s socialist revolution ‘irreversible.’
Re-elected in this week’s presidential poll, Correa has “intimidated Ecuador’s independent media into virtual silence,” The Washington Post reports:
Since May, the government closed 11 other radio stations that did not toe its line. A law forbidding biased reporting on political campaigns and allowing dissatisfied candidates to sue over alleged violations forced the media into pallid and skimpy coverage of the alternatives to Mr. Correa, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists — even as government media blatantly ignored the rules.
Journalists who try to oppose Mr. Correa are made to pay. A newsmagazine that urged voters to vote down a referendum giving the government still more control over the media was fined $80,000 for violating the law against electoral propaganda. Last year the Ecuadoran group Fundamedios recorded 173 “acts of aggression” against journalists, including one killing and 13 assaults.
Ecuador was rated only “partly free” for the 13th successive year in Freedom House’s recently published Freedom in the World 2013 survey. But it received aggregate scores of only 24 out of 40 and 36 out of 60 respectively for political rights and civil liberties.
Impoverished Ecuadoran voters in particular flocked to vote for Correa, a US-trained economist, in large part because he has “improved access to education and health care for the poor and has built or improved thousands of miles of roads and highways,” The New York Times reports:
But he has governed with aggressive tactics that critics say undermine democracy by expanding presidential power; weakening the independence of the courts; and lashing out often at perceived enemies, including political opponents, the media and, at times, the United States.
“Much of Ecuador’s democratic decline over the last six years is attributable to Correa’s restrictions on freedoms of expression and association,” writes Freedom House analyst Alexander Brockwehl:
Correa has used intimidation tactics and antiquated criminal defamation laws to silence opinions he does not agree with, particularly those expressed in the news media. ….In January 2012, he went a step further toward silencing the press by using his line-item veto power to change the electoral process to limit press coverage of election campaigns. …..According to the prominent Ecuadorian press freedom organization Fundamedios, the law amounts to “censure” of the press and is “expressly prohibited by the Constitution that was approved via referendum in 2008.”
Correa also used electoral changes to centralize power in the executive branch and weaken the role of the legislature in checking executive power. The reform included a provision to modify the seat allocation formula for the National Assembly to favor larger parties which, according to domestic and international critics, will give his PAIS party an additional advantage in the elections.
As Freedom House reported in June, 2012 he has urged his supporters not to grant interviews to the “corrupt” private media and, more recently, he was the only one of the eight presidential candidates who rejected Fundamedios’ request to participate in a survey about the putative role of freedom of expression in Ecuador’s democracy.
Fundamedios is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.