Ecuador indigenous movement on Assange asylum: ‘democracy begins at home’

Ecuador’s granting of asylum to WikiLeaks mastermind Julian Assange “should be an opportunity to start at home,” said Gerardo Jumí Tapias, leader of the Andean Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations  (CAOI). “Democracy should begin at home and cannot be reduced to a discourse for the juncture,” he said, adding that protection of human rights and free expression is laudable but should apply to all citizens, not just a high-profile foreigner. “This is an opportunity for us to review throughout the continent, where many governments present themselves before the world as protectors of human rights, but violate the human rights of indigenous peoples in their own countries.”

Rafael Quispe Flores, CAOI’s coordinator for political rights, added: “There are common denominators among all the governments that call themselves progressive. In Ecuador, it is the government of the citizen revolution; in Bolivia, it is the government of the democratic cultural revolution. But both in practice violate human rights in their countries.”

The Confederation of Indigenous  Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) issued a communique signed by its president, Humberto Cholango, saluting the asylum granted Assange, but at the same time denouncing “the immense contradiction and double discourse of President [Rafael] Correa, who within the country insults, persecutes and prosecutes indigenous leaders and social strugglers as terrorists, judicially harasses journalists like Calderón and Zurita, seized the magazine Vanguardia and communications media like Telesangay, and condemned three indigenous leaders to prison for supposed obstruction of roads in protection of water resources and the Rights of Nature.” (CAOI, Aug. 17)

Juan Carlos Calderón and Christian Zurita are writers facing litigation from Correa over an unflattering biography they wrote of him. The magazine Vanguardia had its offices raided and assets seized earlier this month, supposedly over its failure to meet affirmative action guidelines on the hiring of disabled persons—a charge denied by the magazine, and met with skepticism by the  Inter American Press Association, which protested the action. (MercoPress, Aug. 3) Telesangay, TV station of the provincial government of Morona Santiago which is controlled by the indigenous-based opposition party Pachakutik, was ordered closed by the Correa government in May, ostensibly for failure to comply with unspecified broadcast guidelines. (IFEX, May 28) Last year, three indigenous leaders from Morona Santiago were charged with “terrorism” for allegedly inciting violence at protests against Ecuador’s pending Water Law, which opponents claimed gave a free hand to exploitation of water resources by mining and other extractive industries.

  1. Three Ecuadorans to appeal libel sentences

    Lawyers for three Ecuadorans who were sentenced to prison last week after being accused of libel by President Rafael Correa's administration are preparing to appeal the ruling before international bodies.

    In 2011, Clever Jiménez, a recently re-elected lawmaker from Pachakutik; Fernando Villavicencio, a former union leader; and Carlos Figueroa, a doctor, issued a legal action before the country's prosecutor general accusing Correa of crimes against humanity for allegedly lying about being kidnapped by police officers during a 2010 police revolt.

    In May of last year, Prosecutor General Galo Chiriboga dismissed the complaint and President Correa responded with a libel suit.

    In a first instance ruling April 24, Judge Lucy Blacio sentenced Jiménez and Villavicencio to 18 months and Figueroa to six months in prison. All three were also ordered to pay damages equivalent to $7,000 a month for the period August 2011 to April 2013 and to publicly apologize to Correa.

    Jiménez said he is preparing arguments for the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights because the ruling "did not fulfill due process, and his immunity as qa deputy in Ecuador's National Assembly has not been respected." Villavicencio said that he would not turn himself in, but remain "far from the hands of this government." (WSJ, April 18; Human Rights Ecuador, April 26; Hoy, Quito, April 22)

  2. Ecuador: opposition journalist’s home raided

    The home of Ecuadoran journalist and opposition activist Fernando Villavicencio was raided by National Police on Dec. 27. According to Ecuadoran free-press group Fundamedios, Villavicencio was at home with his family when a group of police broke into his home, armed with machine guns, and confiscated his computers, cell phones and documents. Villavicencio is a reporter for independent news site Plan V and a critic of President Rafael Correa. The same day,the office of opposition lawmaker Cléver Jiménez was also raided. (Latin Times, Dec. 30)

  3. Ecuador: sentences upheld for dissidents

    Followers of the indigenous movement Pachakutik protested outside Ecuador's National Court of Justice Jan. 15, one day after the high court upheld the sentence of dissident lawmaker Cléver Jiménez. Following the ruling, Jiménez and Fernando Villavicencio face 18 months in prison on libel charges, while activist Carlos Figueroa faces six months. Monetary fines against the three were also upheld. (Ecuavisa, Jan. 15; Fundamedios, Jan. 14)