Democracy and rights
Ecuador is one of the countries in South
America where democracy is considered to suffer the
greatest shortcomings, but the situation has improved in
recent times. Some restrictions on press freedom and
civil rights have started to loosen up.
Elections are held regularly and political parties
can be formed freely. However, the NEC electoral
authority has been accused of being politicized.
Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Ecuador, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
In the rankings of countries based on political and
civil rights, Ecuador falls far below the countries in
the region. But both Freedom House and the Economist
Intelligence Unit point to a positive trend since Lenín
Moreno succeeded Rafael Correa in 2017 (see Current
Policy). Moreno has unexpectedly broken with the
authoritarian rule and the anti-democratic tendencies
that former party comrade Correa stood for. Among other
things, media criticism has been eased, corruption
convicted people have been banned from holding public
services and a restriction on re-election of presidents
has been re-introduced (see Political system).
Correa himself and several of his employees have been
sentenced to prison for bribery in connection with the
2013 election (see Calendar). He has been
internationally wanted since 2019 but is on the run in
Belgium, where his wife comes from. Former Vice
President Jorge Glas was sentenced to the same goal and
has also previously been sentenced to prison for
corruption linked to the large bribe in Brazil (see
Transparency International (TI) also finds that
development is moving in the right direction in Ecuador.
Civil society restrictions have been eased. Despite
this, control is still strong over nonprofits and it is
uncertain how the state will handle the protests that
erupted lately, TI writes in early 2020. Ecuador has
climbed upwards in TI's index and is in 93rd place by
180 countries and territories in TI's index (full list
Indigenous peoples, human rights defenders and other
activists are subjected to severe persecution and
harassment. For indigenous peoples, a particularly
charged issue is the right to land and the state's
intrusion on, among other things, oil exploration, which
causes environmental degradation (see Population and
Languages and Natural Resources, Energy and the
Freedom of expression and media
Press freedom prevails according to law, but the
media is sometimes subjected to political pressure and
it has happened that journalists have been arrested or
beaten by police. The debate climate is described as
open, but there is some self-censorship among
journalists on politically sensitive issues and topics
related to the military. Defamation is criminal and can
result in up to three years in prison.
In Reporters Without Borders index of freedom of the
press in 180 countries, Ecuador ranks 98th in 2020.
During Rafael Correa's ten years in power, there were
serious restrictions on media freedom. Following the
police uprising - or the coup attempt, according to
Correa himself - in September 2010 (see Modern History
and Calendar), the president voted for El Universo
magazine when he was called a "dictator" in a chronicle,
and indirectly accused of several people being shot to
death. A court sentenced Correa to $ 40 million in
damages to Correa, and four people in the newspaper were
sentenced to three years in prison. The judgment drew
sharp criticism among human rights and freedom of speech
organizations around the world. The convicted were later
pardoned by Correa and the damages were postponed.
On several other occasions, Correa sued media
organizations and stormed privately owned and often
opposition-loyal media. A new media law passed in 2013
was seen by many as a victory for the president. The law
meant that at most one third of the radio and TV
licenses were to be held by privately owned media
organizations. One third was awarded public service and
the last third was voluntary organizations and
associations. In the past, private media accounted for
about 60 percent of broadcast permits. According to the
law, at least 60 percent of the television programs must
also be produced in Ecuador and 50 percent of the music
in radio must be produced, composed or recorded in the
country. Furthermore, the law meant that a new authority
was given the right to fine the media for slander and
order them to publicly apologize.
The law from 2013 has been extensively used to get
journalists dismissed, to bring prosecution charges
against them and to impose fines. Under President
Moreno, the law has begun to loosen up and tensions
between the government and the media have generally
subsided after his entry.
Judicial system and legal security
The judiciary has always been heavily politicized.
Parliament has traditionally appointed the judges of the
Supreme Court, the Election Authority and the
Constitutional Court. This has led the judges to be
loyal to the party that nominated them. By the 2008
Constitution, the system would be changed so that the
courts were more free to the political special
interests, and after a 2011 referendum, reforms in the
justice system were approved.
However, the regime's influence over the judiciary
did not decrease. In mid-2012, a judicial council with
members appointed for 18 months took office by the
President, Parliament (where the President's party has a
majority) and the Citizens' Council (see Political
system). The task of the Judicial Council was to review
the judicial system and appoint and dismiss judges.
During its term of office, several thousand judges were
dismissed and in many cases replaced by temporary judges
without proper legal expertise. Human rights
organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, have
expressed concern about the development.
Now, among other things, TI is pointing out that
efforts are underway to strengthen the independence of
the judiciary and that corruption convicted persons can
actually be sentenced to tangible punishments.
The indigenous peoples have the right to practice
their jurisprudence and follow their customs as long as
they do not conflict with national law, which sometimes
happens. The death penalty was abolished in 1906.
Amnesty International reports that torture is
occurring in Ecuador's detention centers and prisons,
and police are sometimes guilty of arbitrary arrests. In
a number of cases, police are suspected of having
carried out extrajudicial executions. Impunity for
police officers who are guilty of crime is common. One
reason for this is that their cases are being tried in a
special military court. Lawyers and witnesses have been
threatened. Abuse of women, blacks and indigenous
peoples is a major problem.
"Illegal foreign debt"
President Correa explains that Ecuador does not intend to pay millions of
dollars in "illegal" foreign debt.
Choosing-yes to new constitution
The proposed new constitution (see April 2007) is approved
in a referendum, by 64 percent of voters. The new constitution gives the
president and the government greater powers at the expense of the legislative
assembly (see Political system). The constitution also means that the state has
increased control over certain industries, such as mining, telecommunications
and the oil industry, as well as the right to confiscate certain agricultural
land. Healthcare will be allowed free of charge for older and same-sex
partnerships. The new constitution, which comes into force in October, replaces
the one adopted in 1998.
The crisis with Colombia is dampened
Ecuador resumes low diplomatic relations with Colombia (see March
Unasur is formed
Ecuador and the other eleven independent states of South America at a meeting
in Brazil form the economic and political community Unasur (Unión de Naciones
Suramericanas) whose secretariat is to be located in Quito.
Defense Minister fired, military resigns
President Rafael Correa dismisses Wellington Sandoval as a consequence of
disagreement between the government and the military over the crisis with
Colombia that occurred in March. Several high-ranking military members also
retire after Correa accused the military intelligence service of having been
infiltrated by the CIA.
Diplomatic crisis with Colombia
A diplomatic crisis arises after the Colombian military crossed the border
into Ecuador and killed a leading member of the Colombian left guerrilla Farc.
Together with Venezuela, Ecuador is gathering troops at the border with
Colombia, breaking diplomatic relations.