ECUADOR DIGESTEcuador protests U.S. ambassador’s role in a freedom of the press demonstration; NGOs could get the boot

May 9, 2013

Less than a week after resolving a diplomatic war-of-words with Peru, Ecuador finds itself in another one, this time with the United States.

During his Saturday television broadcast to the nation, Ecuaddor’s president Rafael Correa called US. ambassador Adam Namm “metidito,” or meddlesome, for his participation in a freedom of press demonstration in Quito.

During the event last Friday, organized by Ecuador’s National Union of Journalists (UNP) to celebrate World Free Press Day, Namm penned a quotation by Thomas Jefferson –"The only security of all is in a free press.”– on a giant cartoon that included criticism of Correa.

Correa called the cartoon “grafitti” and said it was inappropriatte for a foreign diplomat to be involved in political protest in his host country.

The issue with the U.S. ambassador is the second diplomatic incident Ecuador has faced in two weeks. On Tuesday, Ecuador's ambassador to Peru was officially recalled following a fight in Lima grocery store that had caused friction between the countries. Correa had at first supported Ambassador Rodrigo Riofrio's claim that he was attacked by a woman in a check-out line, based on video of the fight. In agreeing to leave his post, however, Riofrio said the incident should not stand in the way of good diplomatic relations between Peru and Ecuador.

Ecuador, along with 27 other Latin American countries, was cited by the International Union of Journalists for limiting press freedom. The union specifically criticized a law that imposes a press black-out period for several days leading up to elections.

Just a few feet away from Namm’s contribution to the cartoon, another writer had made a speech bubble that said, “The only free press is edited at the Palace of government,” a reference to Correa's residence.

Correa claimed that the U.S. embassy helped finance activities of the UNP and other groups within Ecuador that try to create a discourse about a lack of freedom of expression. The UNP has challenged Correa to provide proof that they receive U.S. funding.

In his criticism of Namm, Correa mocked what he called the U.S. hypocrisy of protecting the freedoms of those who act against their own people. “We don’t allow corporations to flood our streets with guns. We also don’t execute foreigners without a tral with drone attacks. And we don’t torture prisoners in off-shore prisons like Guantanamo.”

He added that Namm’s choice of Jefferson was ironic. “It’s wonderful that he cited Thomas Jefferson. Check history. Jefferson owned 200 slaves at the same time he shouted to the four winds about freedom. That’s the sort of freedom these people want? Freedom for themselves, for their abuses, to exploit, to outsource labor, to blackmail governments with media campaigns, to pay no taxes? For the rest they advocate exploitation and slavery,”

Ecuador’s Foreign Affairs minister Ricardo Patiño called Namm to a meeting on Tuesday to discuss what he said was a breach of conduct.

Patiño released few details about the seven-minute meeting but said there could be serious consequences if there is a recurrence of Namm's acitivites.

Patiño also sent a note of protest to the U.S. State Department, Namm’s employer.

 

NGOs could be booted from Ecuador

According to the Ecuadorian government, 26 foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are late filing their annual reports and will be asked to leave the country if they do not file within two weeks. 

The NGOs on the list include non-profits with mandates to work with refugees and migrants; run programs for underprivileged children; facilitate international adoptions; create public health initiatives; and connect people with disabilities to services. There are also organizations such as the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (founded by Madeleine Albright), and the American Bar Association.

All foreign NGOs have to submit a review of the previous year (2012) and a plan of operations for the current year (2013) to Ecuador’s international cooperation secretariat. The reports help the government monitor and evaluate the performance of NGOs carrying out activities in Ecuador.

The convention NGOs sign with the state says that these reports need to be presented in the first trimester of every year.

The sanction for non-compliance is the termination of the NGOs activity in Ecuador.

Volcan Tungurahua is roaring again

Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano is again showing increased activity. The monitoring observatory located at the base of the volcano, in Guadalupe, reported that heavy explosions ejected incandescent rocks that rolled down the flanks of the mountain. It also reported showers of dust in nearby areas.

Residents of the resort town of Baños and the nearby city of Ambato were forced to clean up several inches of volcanic ash on several occasions within the past 10 days. Residents were advised to wear masks to protect their lungs from the ash.

Emergency officials say there are no evacuation orders but cautioned residents close to the volcano to be on alert.

Photo caption: U.S. Ambassor Adam Namm writes a Thomas Jefferson quotation on a cartoon poster during a freedom of press demonstration last week in Quito.

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