Ecuador’s president versus the U.S. embassy

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has closed the U.S. base in Ecuador and expelled the U.S. ambassador, while inviting Chinese investment.  According to U.S. embassy cables published by WikiLeaks, he is the most popular president in Ecuador’s history.

He survived a 2010 coup attempt.  Interviewed on Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow program, he told Assange that the United States is the only country in the world not in danger of a military coup because it doesn’t have a U.S. embassy.  He said the U.S. embassy directly paid units of the Ecuadorian national police force, who reported to the U.S. ambassador and not to him.

He said he would welcome a U.S. base in Ecuador provided that Ecuador could establish a military base on Miami.  And he said Ecuador is actively looking for investment by China, Russia and Brazil.  If the United States depends on Chinese financing of its budget and trade deficit, he said, it can’t be wrong for Ecuador to look for Chinese financing.

The most controversial thing he has done is his crackdown on the Ecuadorian press.  When President Correa was elected in 2007, the government only operated on TV station.  His administration seized two TV stations in 2008, and has sued various journalists for defamation of character.  Journalist Emilio Palacio, along with three owners of his newspaper, El Universo, was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $40 million fine early in 2011.  Palacio fled the country and was last reported living in Miami.

This kind of thing is not unique to Ecuador.  Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez also has cracked down on the right-wing adversarial press in his country.

Correa defended his action to Julian Assange by saying that five of the seven newspapers in Ecuador are controlled by the big banks, and are working to undermine his administration.  They don’t tell the truth, he said; by arrangement, none of them published any of the U.S. embassy cables, revealed by WikiLeaks, that related to Ecuador.

Assange said the media companies in the United States, Britain and other countries are equally corrupt.  The solution, he said, is to break up the big media companies and make it easier for independent voices to publish, not to use the power of government to suppress freedom of the press.  I think he’s right.  I also think he could have been tougher in his interview on this issue.

I watch Assange’s The World Tomorrow because he interviews Interesting people who would never appear on American network television.  Assange is not an adversarial interviewer – more like Charlie Rose than the late Mike Wallace – and I sometimes have to do some follow-up to get the complete picture, as I did with this interview.

Click on Digital Journal for links to previous episodes and a summary of the latest episode.

Click on President versus the media in Ecuador for a critical Al Jazeera report on President Correa’s struggle with the Ecuadorian press.

Probably I should use the word “news media” instead of “press,” because in today’s world journalism is not limited to the printed page.  But as an old newspaperman, I have an aversion to the word “media.”  I was a reporter, not a medium.

Some years back the great American press critic A.J. Liebling said that newspapers ought to be endowed, like universities, rather than owned by profit-seeking corporations.

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3 Responses to “Ecuador’s president versus the U.S. embassy”

  1. Anne Tanner Says:

    And reporters should be given tenure!


  2. Gary Christensen Says:

    Gary Christensen TV 10 News & Human Rights Costa Rica

    Capitán Paul Watson,”Price on his Head”
    Por favor leer este.

    Ambientalista marino afirma que su extradición tiene una ‘motivación política’

    An inside look at the Presidential Police of Terror.

    The Costa Rican Presidential Mafia of Oscar Arias and the US. The Presidential Police – la DIS.

    An Open Letter of Peace and Hope to President Bill Clinton:

    Please help Stop the United States “Vetted” Oscar Arias – Rodrigo Arias Secret Costa Rican Presidential Police (la DIS) of violence, “Flagrante Human Rights Abuses”, guardaespaldas de los narcomafia, extortion (extorción), kidnapping (secuestro ), amenazas, beatings, golpizas, blackmail (chantajes), intimidation and violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution of Costa Rica of 1000’s upon 1000’s upon 1000’s of innocent victims by Oscar Arias, Rodrigo Arias, the US, Laura Chinchilla and the Mutinational Corporations & Ruling Elite who Control this Apparatus of Terror.


    • philebersole Says:

      This comment is contrary to everything I think I know about Costa Rica, which is well-known for its stable democratic institutions, its lack of military forces and its commitment to sustainable development.
      Oscar Arias, who was president of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and 2006 to 2010, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for mediation of conflict among other central American nations.

      The most recent Amnesty International mention of Costa Rica was a 2003 criticism for Costa Rica’s position on gay rights. The most recent Human Rights Watch mention of Costa Rica was a 2008 criticism for failure to allow extradition of a Columbian national accused of involvement in death squads. This indicates to me that Costa Rica’s human rights record is relatively good.

      I’m inclined to think the above comment is bogus. I would like comments from people who know more about Costa Rica, and about Latin America, than I do.


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