The Bolivarian Rot Spreads


In January, Guardian columnist and Bolivarian sycophant Mark Weisbrot wrote the following about Rafael Correa's Ecuadorean revolution and its fight with members of the opposition media:

For at least a month now in Ecuador there has been a battle over regulation of the media. It has been in the front pages of the newspapers most of the time, and a leading daily, El Comercio, referred to the fight as one for "defense of human rights and the free practice of journalism." This was in response to the government's closing down of a major TV station, Teleamazonas, for three days beginning December 22.

International organizations such as the Washington-based Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists joined the Ecuadorian media in denouncing the government's actions, with the latter calling it "nothing but an attempt to intimidate the media into silence."

Nonsense, says Weisbrot: "Ecuador, with a democratic left government, is facing the same challenge faced by all of the left-of-center governments in the region: the private media is dominated by heavily monopolized, often politically partisan, right-wing forces opposed to the progressive economic and social reforms that the electorate voted for. All of these governments have responded to that challenge."

So what do the committed democrats in Ecuador do when confronted with a "politically partisan" media opposed to things "that the electorate voted for"? How about a three year stint in the clink for counterrevolutionary opinion editors! (Incidentally, using Weisbrot's rickety logic, Amy Goodman should have been kicked off the air for her partisan criticism of a twice-elected president. Or are Americans more mature consumers of opinion journalism, who can separate truth from fiction, wheat from chaff, unlike those easily manipulated Latin Americans?) Writing at Cato's @Liberty blog, Gabriela Calderon de Burgos explains the case of Emilio Palacio, opinion page editor of Ecuador's largest daily El Universo, who was sentenced to a three year prison stint for an editorial the government claimed was defamatory:

Palacio accused Camilo Samán, director of a state-owned bank, of having sent protesters to El Universo's offices after the newspaper reported on possible acts of corruption at the bank. The President has repeatedly stated that Palacio should be punished for what he wrote. In a country where everybody knows that the courts are not independent of political power, it's not surprising that the ruling went against the editor.

I have known Palacio since I began writing op-eds for El Universo in late 2006. Although we hardly ever agree on policy issues, I certainly don't believe he (or anyone else) deserves to go to jail (and possibly pay a fine of $3 million) for expressing an opinion. (The court actually found Palacio guilty of libel, but even if we were to agree with that finding, the punishment surely does not fit the crime.)

Correa's government has accused at least 31 people of offending "the majesty of the presidency," jailing many of them for short periods of time. To do so, the President revived a law that the first military dictatorship of the 1970s put into place that made such an offense a crime and that was never taken off the books.

For details on Correa's previous harassment of El Universo click here. Radio Sucre reports that the government's attack on Palaciohas achieved its goal; the sentence has "put the media on alert" that it must watch what it says.

Last week, I wrote about Venezuela's arrest of Globovision owner Guillermo Zuloaga and opposition politician Oswaldo Alvarez Paz.