By Ramiro Crespo
On September 13, a political science student published an opinion column in government newspaper El Telégrafo on “The Art (or Science) of Disqualifying Democracies (Part I).” As of this week, the article had been viewed close to 77,000 times, a high number of hits for a first-ever publication – but linked, no doubt with the controversy the author sparked: she was Anne-Dominique Correa, the president’s eldest daughter.
The fact that a major newspaper would give an undergraduate student space to write not one column, but three (parts two and three came out the same week) as an opera prima might be remarkable. Correistas beamed about the prodigious young author who dared to challenge established “northern,” “pseudoscientific” thought about democracy.
Critics noted two issues: first, the president’s daughter getting published by a government newspaper and, second, the content of the text, a tepid questioning of liberal democracy under the guise of scientific analysis. It might as well have been written by Correa, repeating as it did his method of packaging superficial claims in a way that, by coincidence or design, populists from Donald Trump to Viktor Orbán trumpet on a daily basis (although the elder and younger Correa appear to believe they are pursuing some kind of ethno-nationalist Latin American system they don’t bother to define clearly beyond being limited to being south of the US border).
The younger Correa picks up the glove against The Economist, one of her father’s least favorite media outlets; she repeats two-year old claims of corporate shareholdings that are false; she also invents an “Economist Intelligence Unit of Democracy,” failing to discern the difference between The Economist, the EIU, and the EIU’s Democracy Index, an annual product. Several critics have noted the irony of her criticism of, to put it in correct terms, a British research institute rating democracies given that the UK is a monarchy, given that she would not have been able to publish her musings if her father was not the quasi-monarchical president.
Correístas of course were enraged at the criticism. After an Italian columnist quit El Telégrafo, saying the paper had rejected a column in which he criticized the paper’s decision to publish the presidential prodigy, Correa blasted him as a “little clown nobody read” (indeed, a general critique of El Telégrafo) and complained about attacks on his family. In the past, his government and the judiciary have however pursued family members of critics, from journalists like Bloomberg’s then-correspondent in Quito to indigenous leader Carlos Pérez Guartambel, among others.
In this case, 4Pelagatos’ editorial team received death threats in social media, with personal telephone numbers and addresses made public.
Ramiro Crespo is chairman of the board of the Quito-based investment firm, Analytica Investments, http://analytica.ec