When the government candidate eked out a victory in the bitter runoff for president of Ecuador in April, incumbent Rafael Correa was ebullient. The willful populist who ran the small Andean nation like a private finca for the last decade had staked his legacy on the continuation of his “Citizen’s Revolution,” pulling out the stops for his anointed successor against a surging opposition, writes Bloomberg’s Mac Margolis:
So it wasn’t unreasonable to expect both gratitude and fealty from his understudy. But in the two months since taking office, President Lenin Moreno (left) has been anything but the doting mentee. Calling for a national dialogue, he reached out to opposition leaders, including Correa’s blood enemy former president Abdala Bucaram. At a time when high ranking Ecuadorean officials from Correa’s administration are being questioned for graft, he announced an anti-corruption drive, and granted generous property rights to indigenous communities with whom Correa had repeatedly clashed.
The differences between creator and creature flared into a public battle, spilling over to social media. Correa called his successor “disloyal” and “mediocre,” and warned of the danger of “crossing red lines.” On Twitter Moreno parried that “we continue committed to reconcile the country,” adding: “As for hate, don’t count on us.” Such apostasy is new in Ecuador, according to political scientist Andres Mejia Acosta, of Kings College London. “The unspoken code for a new leader is that you leave your predecessor alone and the party allows you to govern,” he told me.
“The economic and fiscal situation is very difficult and requires that Moreno build bridges with the private sector and civil society,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. “He can’t give himself the luxury of continuing Correa’s confrontational style of leadership.”
Ecuador’s media landscape has changed drastically from the time Rafael Correa came to power, with more than 2,000 recorded attacks against journalists during his 10-year rule. Throughout his tenure, President Correa has consistently labeled the press as the opposition and tightened his grip on the media through the use of censorship and propaganda. This systematic closing of space for freedom of expression and the constant maligning of the journalism profession has fractured Ecuador’s media environment. However, with the recent election of Lenín Moreno as president, it is worth examining whether attacks on the media will continue.
Ecuadorian media activist César Ricaurte (left) has documented the story of how his media watchdog organization, FUNDAMEDIOS, navigated a hostile media environment in his forthcoming book El Aguante: Historias de la Resistencia Democrática en un País Autoritario. (Endurance: Stories of the Democratic Resistance in an Authoritarian Country). In his presentation, he will explore the challenges presented by authoritarian populism and consider the societal impact of this type of regime. Mr. Ricaurte will focus on the ways in which Correa’s administration used propaganda and censorship against media outlets and what this means for the future of Ecuador’s media. National Endowment for Democracy Program Officer Don Podesta will provide comments following Ricaurte’s presentation.
Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow
with comments by
National Endowment for Democracy
Wednesday, July 19, 2016 3:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m. 1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004 Telephone: 202-378-9675
César Ricaurte is co-founder and executive director of the NED-supported Andean Foundation for Social Observation and Study of the Media (FUNDAMEDIOS), Ecuador’s first civil society organization devoted to the protection of free speech. He has actively denounced his government’s attacks on freedom of the press, including by way of testimony before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and as a result he has been a frequent target of official harassment. In 2012, the Argentine publishing house Perfil awarded him an International Freedom of the Press Prize, and the Inter-American Press Association granted him its Grand Prize for Press Freedom. During his fellowship, Mr. Ricaurte is writing his book examining the Ecuadorian government’s systematic assault on freedom of expression, including the stigmatization of journalists, NGOs, and independent media.
Don Podesta is a program officer for Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy, concentrating on Ecuador and Bolivia. Previously he was the manager and editor at the Center for International Media Assistance at the NED. Before coming to the Endowment, Mr. Podesta was an assistant managing editor at the Washington Post, where he also served as the paper’s news editor and deputy foreign editor. From 1992 to 1994, he was the Post’s correspondent in South America, covering Peru’s war against the Shining Path guerrilla movement; presidential elections in Bolivia, Chile, and Paraguay; the drug violence in Colombia; and several economic, social, and environmental issues in Brazil and Argentina.
Fabiola Cordova is associate director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy. Since joining the Endowment in 2005, she has managed programs across the region, and now oversees NED’s grant portfolio in the Andes and cross-country initiatives. In her current position, she works with civil society organizations to strengthen their institutional capacity, and support their efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and values. Previously, Ms. Cordova worked at the National Democratic Institute, where she managed projects focusing on election observation and political party strengthening. She holds a BA in International Relations from Clark University, and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.