Correa vilifies nongovermental organisations
CSOs continue to be publicly vilified in Ecuador. Last April, during a meeting at the Vatican, President Correa said that
‘there is nothing more dangerous for democracy that political actors with no political responsibility.’
Correa alleges that there is an invasion of NGOs supported by other governments, which are a threat to democracy because they set a political agenda without democratic legitimacy or responsibility. Meanwhile, the Telesur regional television network decried the role of Ecuadorian NGOs supported by the United States, stating that they are subverting the democratic order behind the façade of humanitarian and environmental work. Indigenous leaders also claim that their right to association has been impeded since 2015 when the government transferred registration powers to a new government body.
The National Indigenous Confederation of Ecuador (CONAIE) believes that the criminalisation of protest in Ecuador is directly related to the growth of projects in the extractive industry, which have expanded in recent years to territories inhabited by indigenous and aboriginal peoples of the Amazon. Tactics of repression are manifold: a combination of regulatory and policing restrictions designed to punish those who demand their rights and propose changes in state policies through protest. Leaders of social movements estimate that approximately 700 legitimate protests were criminalised during the nine years of the current government. In this period, 300 people were prosecuted, with 200 prosecuted during the last half of 2015 alone. Of these, about 50 relate to people in the Amazon region who participated in protests against state violence. Recent changes to the constitution and the Organic Integral Criminal Code foreshadow a continuation of this crackdown on protests. Authorities were also criticised recently for threatening to imprison earthquake victims who demanded better responses to the emergency.
During 2016, President Rafael Correa continues his assault on the independent media in Ecuador. Both digital and traditional media spaces are under attack, including through the 2013 Communication Act. Media organisations have suffered of attempted censorship, through hacking and denial of service attacks (DDoS) or through the application of intellectual property laws. Focus Ecuador, a digital magazine that opened in March 2015, was attacked on at least three occasions over the past year, interrupting their services on each occasion. In May 2016, their site was hacked after reporting on a case of alleged corruption in the oil sector. The report was reposted by other platforms including Mil Hojas and Plan V, which also suffered attacks a few hours later.