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Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer

An article by James McEnteer in CounterPunch depicts Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa as a “ranting, bullying, hectoring politician“ who “commandeered radio, television and print media to propagate his unfiltered views. Every Saturday he spoke on current events for hours, in a populist, shoot-from-the-hip style, from different locations around the country, often berating critics by name, labeling them ‘terrorists’ or ‘rock throwers’ and causing some to fear for their safely”.

McEnteer lives in Ecuador so must know that the way to avoid Correa’s show is simply to change the channel to any of the private networks that host critics who call Correa a “dictator” (as opposition presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso has done) and who mock Correa’s supporters as “sheep”.

This is should be an obvious point but isn’t because of the way the international media has demonized left-wing governments in the region. Some people outside Ecuador will readily believe – and try to get others to believe – that all you can watch on Ecuadorian TV for hours every Saturday is Correa’s show. Sad to see an outlet like Counterpunch get in on the act.

What about the charge of “rock thrower” that bothers McEnteer who also complained (vaguely) that ““Students who attended a protest rally were expelled from their highly-regarded public high school.”?

Could McEnteer have meant the protest captured in the video embedded in this article? At about the 32 second mark watch how a female police officer gets struck in the head with a large rock. She was seriously injured despite wearing a helmet. Without the helmet she’d have been dead. “Rock thrower” is perfectly appropriate term for the perpetrator. Harsh language is also appropriate for the people who overlook opposition violence like that.

McEnteer wrote that Correa “sued several newspapers for libel, earning rebukes from the Inter American Press Association and the Committee to Protect Journalists.”

Those libel suits stemmed from a coup attempt in 2010 in which Correa was a briefly held hostage by rebellious police and nearly killed. McEnteer’s article didn’t say a word about the coup attempt but labelled Correa “paranoid”. What an appalling lie of omission.  A newspaper pundit accused Correa of perpetrating crimes against humanity during the coup attempt – an outlandish (and yes, libelous claim) that illustrates how insufferably arrogant, dishonest and unethical the private media have long been in Ecuador.

There are, as anywhere, reasonable criticisms to be made of media policy and regulations, but the position of NGOs like the Committee to Protect Journalists and has been to protect the illegitimate power wielded by press barons, not freedom of speech. Under Correa, unaccountable, unelected press barons haven’t been able to dominate. Groups like the CPJ, and the international media, find that unacceptable.

Correa’s relationship with indigenous groups is way more mixed than McEnteer describes. I’ve written about that in a piece entitled “Don’t be fooled by “leftists” who mimic the Right in Ecuador

As for McEnteer’s expressed concern for “indigenous lands”, Lasso, if he wins, will certainly find ways, if he can, to sell out the indigenous villagers who have been battling Chevron for decades. It is no coincidence the villagers biggest victories came under Correa’s reformed judiciary.  Lasso was part of the government that, in 1998, signed off on Chevron’s destruction of the Amazon.  That particular threat to “indigenous lands” seems to get ignored by people who want to make a “progressive” “pro indigenous” sounding attack on Correa’s government.

Joe Emersberger is a Canadian with Ecuadorian roots who writes for Telesur English.

Joe Emersberger is a writer based in Canada whose work has appeared in Telesur English, ZNet and CounterPunch.

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