Seventy young leaders of university governments and political organizations met over the weekend to develop an agenda to present to Ecuador’s presidential and National Assembly candidates.
“The youth of Ecuador feel unrepresented in the current political campaign and we want our voices heard,” said Mauricio Alarcón, a leader of the Espacio Joven initiative.
The group, which met in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca, named five themes it considers most important to young people in Ecuador: corruption, judicial independence, respect for human, sexual and reproductive rights, and employment, and economic management.
Members of Espacio Joven say they do not support particular candidates, although most of the group identified themselves as leftist or center-leftist. “Despite our personal political beliefs, we believe the areas we have defined are important to all young people in Ecuador, said Alarcón. “Our country is in a crisis and we want to be involved in finding solutions.”
César Vanegas, an Espacio Joven representative from the University of Cuenca, says open access to information and freedom of speech are his biggest issue. “The government tries to control information and speech and these efforts should stop,” he says. He calls for the elimination of the national Council of Citizen Participation and the Communication Law which he says restrict the flow of information. “I believe the corruption scandals with Petroecuador and Odebrecht are a result of this problem and the lack of government transparency in general.”
Other members of Espacio Joven say the government punishes “whistleblowers” who could have flagged corruption before it reached current levels. “We support an open society where freedom of expression is appreciated and supported, not denied,” said William Ortíz from Quito.
Otíz cited a recent Amnesty International report criticizing what it claimed were government attempts to restrict freedom of expression in Ecuador.
Espacio Joven says it also supports efforts to open the country to investment to create more economic opportunity for young people.