Héctor Aguavil Calazacón of the indigenous community of Tsáchila murdered

As featured previously on the Monitor, the President of Ecuador decided to hold a referendum that would allow citizens to express their opinion on certain changes to the constitution, including reinstating presidential term limits and issues related to the Penal Code and the environment. The referendum took place on 4th February 2018 and according to reports, "all of the seven questions included in the popular consultation received a resounding yes". Among the changes, Ecuadorians favoured eliminating the 2015 constitutional amendment that removed presidential term limits. 


On 16th February 2018, Héctor Aguavil Calazacón, a former authority in the indigenous community of Tsáchila, was murdered in the city of Santo Domingo de los Colorados. Following the tragedy, Confederación de Nacionalidades Indìgenas de Ecuador (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) issued a public statement in solidarity with Aguavil Calazacón's family and with the Tsáchila community. Before his death, it had been reported that the indigenous leader had previously received threats. 

On 28 February 2018, Jorge Washington Acosta, coordinator of Asociación Sindical de Trabajadores Agrícolas Bananeros y Campesinos, a trade union of banana plantation workers and farmers, was threatened. According to local organisation Fundamedios, Acosta reported that he had been threatened because of his activity as a trade union leader denouncing violations and promoting labour inspections of banana plantations. 


According to Human Rights Watch's World Report 2018, Ecuador still faces serious human rights challenges, "including laws that give the government broad powers to limit free speech; limited judicial independence; poor prison conditions; and far-reaching restrictions on women’s and girls’ access to reproductive health care". 

In particular, the report notes that the 2013 Communication Law gives the government broad powers to limit freedom of speech and it has not been amended. In light of that, civil society activists have announced the formation of a civic initiative - Democratic Group for the Reforms of the Organic Law of Communication.

According to Fundamedios, in the last ten years more than 2,000 verbal, judicial and physical assaults against the press have been documented and the creation and application of the Communication Law "was the turning point for Ecuador to be considered one of the countries with the worst situations of fundamental freedoms in the Western Hemisphere".

In a positive development, on 22nd February 2018 journalist Fernando Villavicencio and former congressional representative Cléver Jiménez, who have been on trial since 2014, were declared innocent by the Criminal Court of the National Court of Justice. The prosecution was a result of the investigation known as "The Chevron File" wherein the journalist made allegations of corruption between the Ecuadorian government and Chevron.  In the report, the journalist cites email messages between the then Attorney General of the State, Legal Secretary of the Presidency and former President Correa. For that reason, they faced charges of disclosing classified information and for endangering state security.