Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador since 2007, is undoubtedly the best-educated leftist president in Latin America. He has two masters degree — one from Universite Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and another one from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a PhD from the same university.
He speaks four languages: Spanish, English, French and Quechua.
This allows Correa to present himself as a reasonable politician. One who in his Op-Ed column for the Boston Globe can rationally argue, “Real freedom requires justice.” He quotes from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “All men are created equal and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable (sic) Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
In Ecuador and across Latin America, Correa wrote, we also hold these truths to be self-evident, and we must make them a reality not just for certain people or at some future time, but right now and for everybody.
No doubt Correa talks and writes a good game.
It is a shame, however, that Correa does not practice what he preaches. When eight U.S. senators replied to his Op-Ed piece, he had a fit. How dare senators question his article! That clearly is an intromission in the internal affairs of Ecuador.
And therein lies the problem. Correa may be well educated, but he certainly does not understand what a true democracy is.
Nobody questions his right to speak at Harvard and write for the Boston Globe. Nor should he be surprised by the critical response of a bi-partisan group of American senators. This was not a partisan reply. Among those who questioned Correa were: Bob Menéndez, D-N.J., and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Marco Rubio, R-FL, and six other members of the committee — three Republicans and three Democrats.
American lawmakers and the press are aware of Correa’s disregard for the free press. Questioning the president is dangerous for the press. He has imposed multi-million dollar fines (later magnanimously forgiven) to El Universo of Guayaquil for publishing a column that question the events of a police uprising against Correa.
He has also confiscated or closed down radio stations that question his policies.
When I talk to Ecuadorean journalists they all tell me that they have to be very careful of what they write or air on radio and television. Auto-censorship best describes what is happening in Ecuador.
The few journalists who try to use social media to voice their displeasure with Correa find out that their accounts are frozen. Correa’s diplomats take care of that.
Relations with the United States are strained. Correa expelled the American ambassador, as well as other diplomats. He closed down the naval base at Manta that the American Navy used in its war against drugs. His relations with human rights organizations are poor.
But now Correa wants international and private investors in the United States to forget about his authoritarian policies. He has decided to explore for oil in the country’s easternmost Amazonian regions. He wants politicians and international organizations to forget he has sided with the indigenous people in the region to sue Chevron for damages to the region in a dispute where international arbitrators and a Federal Court in New York have agreed with the American oil company.
He needs American technology and science to begin exploitation of Yachay, Dos, a potentially rich oil field in Ecuador’s Amazon region.
Now he needs the same companies that Ecuador once expelled from the country to come back to Ecuador if he is to successfully exploit the new oil field.
That is why Correa came to the United States. That is why he replies so aggressively to anyone who questions his speech, or his motives.
Correa is a well-polished man and the contrast with Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro is enormous. But be careful. He is a well-educated wolf disguised in sheep’s clothes.
International organizations have already decided to re-invest in Ecuador. Correa needs more. He needs to convince major international oil companies to forget the past and invest in Ecuador for the future.
That is a big risk. One that major oil companies should measure well before deciding to again invest in Ecuador.
Guillermo I. Martínez resides in South Florida. His e-mail is Guimar123@gmail.com.His Twitter is @g_martinez123.
Copyright © 2014, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
In my seventeen years on the faculty here at Yale, I have never sought to write to you.
I reach out to you today because the visit of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was an affront to many of the values we treasure here at Yale and the United States.
Though elected to his post, Rafael Correa rules as a despot. He has all but silenced the news media in his country and has also crushed political opponents through violence and intimidation.
I attended Correa’s talk yesterday, but was not allowed to ask any questions. So here are five questions for him.
1. Mr. President, you have been criticized for attacks on freedom of expression by groups including Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists and the U.S. Department of State for your attacks on media and civil society. Yet here you are speaking at a University that prides itself on freedom of expression and vigorous debate. If Yale were located in Ecuador, would any considerations keep you from closing down Yale if its students and faculty dared to challenge your policies?
2. Mr. President, you have approved a law that requires public media in Ecuador to report on all issues the government considers of public interest. You were educated in the USA and have seen first hand the contribution a free press and robust civil society can bring to a nation. Why is it that you refuse to tolerate free speech and open debate in Ecuador?
3. Mr. President, you are an enthusiastic supporter of the Castro regime in Cuba, one of the most repressive states on earth, which forbids freedom of expression to all its citizens, denies them internet access and has been condemned repeatedly by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders as one of the most flagrant abusers of human rights on planet earth. Would you like to comment on this?
4. Mr. President, it is common knowledge that Ecuador wants to return to international financial markets to borrow money again following its 2008 default. Yet you yourself have publicly attacked bond holders, calling them “true monsters.” Outside institutions tend to think that the rule of law and protection for investors is weak in Ecuador. So what is the case you make for investing in Ecuador today?
5. Mr. President, your government has approved laws that give you the right to close an NGO if the government determines it has undermined “public peace.” Pachamama, one of Ecuador’s most prominent environmental NGOs was ordered shut down after being accused of stirring up rowdy protests. Would you like to comment on this incident and others like it?
6. Mr. President, LifeSitesNews.com reported in Jan. 6, 2014 from Quito that you had “criticized gender ideology, calling it absurd and very dangerous.” Speaking about gays, you were also reported as saying “We respect them as persons… But we don’t share these barbarities.” Would you like to explain these statements to the Yale community?
While Correa has every right to speak freely here at Yale, and to be treated with respect, he also needs to be reminded that back in Ecuador he is denying his country the same rights that allow him to speak to us.
Dictators should never feel comfortable beyond their borders, or within them. And when they venture to praise themselves on foreign soil, they should be reminded that tolerance is a two-way street.
The writer is the T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies.