President Lenin Moreno has issued a pardon to Patricio Marcelo Meza, an environmentalist arrested and jailed in August 2015 during an anti-mining protest in Puyo.
Referring to a demand from the indigenous organization Conaie for the release and pardons of 177 protesters arrested during the administration of former president Rafael Correa, including Meza, Moreno said, “The dialogue is beginning and we will continue to talk and continue to review the circumstances of those arrested in political protests.”
In the pardon, Moreno also said the review is intended to “strengthen the democratic process in the country and show respect for the dignity of individuals and organizations that disagree with the government.”
Many of those on the Conaie list were arrested during protests of government-approved mining projects. Others were arrested in anti-government strikes.
Meza’s arrest drew a strong rebuke two years ago from the international organization, Human Rights Watch, which claimed he was a political prisoner of the Correa government.
“Under the government of Rafael Correa we see clear evidence of a broad and systematic policy of criminalization of social protest,” Human Rights Watch said at the time.
Meza’s pardon and Moreno’s statement to review other protest arrests drew a critical Tweet from Correa, who warned Moreno and the National Assembly against releasing “thugs and terrorists.” Correa has criticized several of Moreno’s decisions in recent weeks.
The National Assembly, which also received the demand for pardons from Conaie, has formed a committee to review the cases of those arrested.