Tag Archives: Ecuador

No Laughing Matter: Press Freedom in Latin America Takes a Hit

bonil-cartoon

“Police and prosecutors search the home of Fernando Villavicencio and take documentation of corruption.” – Cartoon by Xavier Bonilla, published in El Universo on December 28, 2013.

Read about CIPE’s 2014 Global Editorial Cartoon Competition.

In recent years, Latin America has seen an overall shift away from media independence and freedom of the press – only one in 50 Latin Americans live in free media environments, according to Freedom House, even though the majority of Latin American countries are still democracies. The biggest drop — 15 points in the last five years — was in Ecuador, a clear illustration of the problems that can occur when democratically elected leaders curtail media freedom.

After Rafael Correa took office on a wave of populist charisma in 2007, the Ecuadorian media began to realize that they needed to watch themselves due to various acts against independent media that alleged corruption in the Correa family or the Correa administration. These attacks against press freedom were formally legalized with the Organic Law on Communications, passed in 2012 without open debate in the National Assembly or among civil society.

This law, which Correa lauded as a step toward the democratization of media and a strengthening of freedom of expression as it broke up a near-monopoly of news sources owned by a single family, also opened the door to greater state intervention in the media.

The major concern for media outlets is that many aspects of the law were left ambiguous, allowing for broad interpretation and arbitrary application. For instance, Article 26 of the law prohibits “media lynching” and allows public officials being investigated for corruption by the media to sue the journalist or the newspaper doing the investigating. Article 71 of the law defines information as a “public good” equal to water quality and electricity, and therefore subject to increased regulation by the state.

The most recent case of the Correa administration battling perceived defamation in the media is that of Xavier Bonilla, a political cartoonist known by the pen name Bonil.

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Bringing Youth Entrepreneurship Education to Rural Ecuador

Emprendedores Ecua

Over the course of June and July, nearly 1,000 high school and university students in cities throughout Ecuador learned about business plan development, leadership and communication, market economy, and democracy. However, they did not learn about these topics by reading their textbooks or from listening to a professional consultant or workshop facilitator. Uniquely, the message on the importance of a market economy, democracy, and an entrepreneurial climate came from a group of 45 aspiring young leaders and entrepreneurs. These 45 university students from rural areas of the country are the first participants in the Emprendedores Ecuatorianos (Ecuadorian Entrepreneurs) program organized by the Ecuadorian Institute of Political Economy (IEEP).

The Emprendedores Ecuatorianos program, launched earlier this year with local private sector and CIPE support, is modeled after the successful EmprendeAhora program in Peru. In this its first year, IEEP selected 45 participants based on a lengthy application process. The educational program took place from March to May at the Universidad del Espiritu Santo in Guayaquil and consisted of 100 hours of courses on leadership, business plans, democracy and economy, marketing, and human development.

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Ecuador: Going the Socialist Route?

On September 28, the Ecuadoran public voted overwhelmingly in favor of adopting a new constitution that had been swiftly drafted by the Constitutional Assembly and finalized by the government of President Rafael Correa. Little analysis has been applied to this 150-page document. What will this mean for the rule of law in Ecuador?

What is understood about the provisions of the new constitution is worrisome; the lack of understanding in Ecuador about how the constitution will be interpreted is of even greater concern. A number of the constitution’s provisions could present challenges to the rule of law and the future of private investment in Ecuador, including:

- Expanded executive control over the judicial and legislative branches of government, as well as the central bank.
- Respect for property rights is now based on ambiguous notions of social and environmental responsibility. The provisions leave huge discretionary decision-making to the government to define what this means.
- The government will be able to intervene in the pricing of market goods.
- International arbitrage is now prohibited in contracts for foreign investment.

While it is unclear how the government will implement the new constitution, the anti-business tenor of the document and its cloudy definition of property rights and contract law will likely inhibit future foreign investment in the country, and turn back progress made to date.

Dora de Ampuero of the Ecuadorian Institute of Political Economy (IEEP) explains that “the new constitution is structured in such a way that much of its content is confusing, which gives the executive the opportunity to interpret the new text however they best see fit.” She further explains that “It is still too early to know where the country is heading, but if the guiding principles of the constitution are followed, then Ecuador will become a closed economy that will be limited by government intervention.” IEEP has been engaged in an active campaign to promote better understanding of the market economy and the principles of democracy through a weekly radio and television program and public forums, with a particular focus on issues that are important to young leaders. This work is especially important now that the new constitution has been approved.

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