Ecuador’s authoritarian creep

Jose Cardenas at InterAmerican Security Watch:

Ecuador’s authoritarian creep — and Washington’s silence

You have to hand it to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa. He has a plan and he is working it relentlessly. Unfortunately, for those concerned about democracy in the hemisphere, his plan calls for the gutting of democratic institutions in Ecuador and concentrating all power in his person.

It may be that the Ecuadorean populist doesn’t generate the international headlines like his amigo in Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, but that doesn’t make him any less of a threat to democracy in the region.

Recently, Correa has generated some attention in the U.S. for the campaign of intimidation he is waging against one of the country’s most respected newspapers, El Universo. Editorials in theWashington PostNew York Times and Los Angeles Times have harshly criticized his efforts to drag the newspaper owners and a columnist into court and winning a $40 million judgment in a trumped-up defamation proceeding.

According to the Post, what is occurring in Ecuador is, “the most comprehensive and ruthless assault on free media underway in the Western Hemisphere.”

The problem is that abuse of the media is only one troublesome aspect of Correa’s populist project. Undermining rule of law is another. This week, for example, a new Ecuadorean Supreme Court will be seated, the product of referendum Correa rammed through last year, giving his latest power grab a patina of legitimacy.

Evidently not satisfied with the provisions on selecting judges in his own rewritten constitution of 2008, Correa changed the rules again. The standing Supreme Court was abolished and through a new, convoluted selection process — controlled by the Executive — Correa got what he wanted: 13 of the new 21 judges are now in his pocket.

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