President Rafael Correa has earned the title as Ecuador’s “suingest” president since the country returned to democratic rule in 1979. The president has filed 21 lawsuits since he took office in 2007, almost twice as many as all other presidents combined in the last 37 years.
According to public records, Correa has filed 13 suits as a private citizen and eight as president, winning 16 of them while the others were resolved through arbitration.
Political science professor and journalist Miguel Puente told the Quito newspaper El Comercio that Correa shows “exceptional intolerance” for public criticism. “He stands out as a chief executive who cannot accept negative comments about his policies or his personal style of governance,” Puente said. “Public officials, especially presidents, are under constant public scrutiny and must have the ability and dignity to accept criticism gracefully. Correa is unable to do this.”
Of the legal actions filed by Correa as private citizen, 10 were for slander, libel, and perjury.
Puente said that the president’s litigiousness appears to be contagious as other members of his administration have filed dozens of lawsuits as well. The most recent is by higher education minister René Ramírez who claims that presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso has maligned the honor of he and wife. “Most of the courts in the world would throw out these kinds of cases for being frivolous, but not in Ecuador. Correa effectively controls the courts here,” he said.
Quito lawyer Joffre Campaña agrees and says the intent of law suits from government officials is aimed at “sowing fear among citizens.” Campaña, who was the target of one of Correa’s suits, says the legal threat has the affect of restraining criticism of the government. “This is not how democracy is supposed to work.”
Correa’s attorneys claim there is nothing political about the lawsuits. “This is simply about defending his good name and honor,” said Jorge Ramirez, who has filed two suits for the president.