Tag Archive | "Ecuador"

Ecuador Twists Embarrassing INA Papers into Pretext to Oust Assange


On 26 March, WikiLeaks’ Twitter account announced that President Moreno is being investigated by Ecuador’s Congress for corruption, sparked by the INA Papers leak. The same tweet referenced President Moreno’s attempt to surrender Assange in exchange for US debt relief, a fact that had been reported by The New York Times.




Corruption investigation opened against Ecuador’s president Moreno, after purported leaked contents of his iPhone (Whatsapp, Telegram) & Gmail were published. New York Times reported that Moreno tried to sell Assange to US for debt relief. http://inapapers.org

The following day, Foreign Minister Jose Valencia said that the WikiLeaks tweet was “an absurd lie to harm the dignity of our country… we will not tolerate… inventions and insults… I cannot anticipate when and when we will take action in relation to this, but we will take action for certain.”

On 28 March, Communications Minister Andrés Michelena told CNN Español that the INApapers were part of a plot of Julian Assange, Venezuelan President Maduro and former Ecuadorian President Correa to bring down Moreno’s government. He added,

“You have to understand how these people are connected, Mr. Assange is the Troll Center, the hacker for former President Correa, [Assange] handles the technological and social media side.”

That same day, the national assembly, in which Moreno’s party and other right parties command a majority, passed a resolution inviting the Foreign Ministry to take action against Assange’s asylum on the basis of the INApapers leak “in the national interest” if it considers it pertinent to do so.

In March 2019, Moreno’s approval ratings dropped to 17%. Statements by the government of Ecuador deliberately implicate WikiLeaks in the INApapers leak. For example, Ecuador’s Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner said in a local radio interview,

“What Wikileaks and other political actors have done, to publish private photos of the President of the Republic, of his family, is a despicable, repugnant, and odious act.”

The Foreign Minister said in a radio interview:

“It is absolutely outrageous, reproachable, it shows Assange for what he is… of course we will act. We will not allow his website to interfere in the private channels of communication of the Ecuadorian head of state…. he is biting the hand that feeds him.”

Foreign Minister José Valencia has stated:

“we are going to analyze whether Mr. Julian Assange’s aggressive publications against the Ecuadorian state merits a legal action by the Ecuadorian state.”

On 1 April, Ecuador submitted a request to the United Nations Rapporteur on Privacy to take urgent measures in response to the INApapers publication, listing WikiLeaks as the responsible party.

President Moreno, desperate to divert public attention away from the scandal, is using the claims as a pretext to oust Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. On 2 April, the President statedthat Assange has “violated the ‘conditions’ of his asylum” and that he will “take a decision” “in the short term.” He said,

“In WikiLeaks there is proof of espionage, of hacking, of the fact that phones have been intercepted and private conversations, there are even pictures of my bedroom.”

Assange’s lawyer in Ecuador, Carlos Povedaexplained that Assange had nothing to do with the publication:

“Remember that WikiLeaks has an internal organization and Mr. Assange is no longer in the editor. We will now resort to other types of situations, especially the Inter-American Commission”. (Listen to audio here.)

Nevertheless, Ecuador’s Vice President, Otto Sonnenholzner, has suggested that Assange would be prosecuted over what he described as a WikiLeaks “hack,” alluding to the rigid protocol that Ecuador has imposed on Assange to maintain a constant threat of expulsion.

The INA Papers are a set of documents published in February 2019, allegedly uncovering the operations of INA Investment Corp, an offshore tax haven created by the brother of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno. The trove of emails, phone communications and expense receipts are said to link the president and his family to a series of corrupt and criminal dealings, including money laundering and offshore accounts. The leak has sparked a congressional investigation into President Moreno for corruption. Moreno can’t be summoned for a criminal probe while he remains president. He is currently being investigated and risks impeachment.

Former Consul of Ecuador Fidel Navarez denounces the “resolution based on a lie” that blames Assange for the INA Papers:

The recent reaction of the Ecuadorian government to the INAPAPERS scandal could not be worse. Instead of clarifying and making the issue transparent, the government spokesmen, to divert attention from the still timorous official investigations, position a monumental lie, accusing WikiLeaks of having leaked communications and images of President Moreno’s family circle.

Not a single document referring to INAPAPERS, or the president’s family, has ever been leaked or published by WikiLeaks, let alone by Julian Assange, who for more than half a year has not been its editor and who has been isolated for one year under a regime quasi-prison by the government of Ecuador.

Despite being an outrageous accusation, the farce has reached the point that the Ecuadorian National Assembly has issued a resolution to investigate Julián and encourages the government to take measures to “safeguard national interests.” In short, the government seeks a false pretext to end the asylum and protection of Julian Assange.

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Ecuador judge orders arrest of ex-president Rafael Correa


Ecuador judge orders arrest of ex-president Rafael Correa

The National Court of Justice of Ecuador has ordered the preventive detention of the country’s former president Rafael Correa and requested that Interpol apprehend him for extradition.

The request for Correa’s detention was filed by the country’s chief prosecutor on Tuesday. The prosecution is accusing Correa, who served as the president of Ecuador from 2007 to 2017, of being involved in the kidnapping of Fernando Balda, a former opposition lawmaker, in 2012 in Colombia – charges that Correa vehemently denies.

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Fiscalía Ecuador


ATENCIÓN | Jueza Daniella Camacho acoge el pedido de Fiscalía, ordena la prisión preventiva en contra del expresidente Rafael C. por su presunta participación en los delitos de asociación ilícita y secuestro. Remitirá oficio a Interpol para la captura con fines de extradición.

Balda himself was charged with orchestrating a foiled coup attempt in 2010. The charges were filed when the lawmaker was in Colombia, from where he was eventually deported to Ecuador in 2012 and served a year in prison for endangering state security.

Correa, who is living in Belgium with his family, is up in arms over the court’s ruling, arguing on Twitter that the request to put him in custody was made without “a single piece of evidence.” He believes the extradition does not stand a chance at the international level.

“How much success will this farce have at the international level? Don’t worry, everything is a matter of time. We will win!”he added.

Rafael Correa


Fiscal puesto a dedo, vinculación sin ninguna prueba, jueza que se allana al desacato de la Asamblea Nacional, medida cautelar imposible de cumplir, etc.
¿Saben cuánto éxito va a tener esta farsa a nivel internacional?
No se preocupen, todo es cuestión de tiempo.

Fiscalía Ecuador


ATENCIÓN| Fiscal #PaúlPérezR solicitó la prisión preventiva en contra del expresidente Rafael C. por incumplimiento de medida cautelar de presentación periódica ante @CorteNacional. Pidió que se notifique a Interpol mediante difusión de alerta roja para su captura y extradición.

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In a string of tweets, Correa thanked his followers for the outpour of support he received after the news on the international warrant for his extradition broke. “ I thank everyone for their solidarity in the face of this new and serious abuse of justice and my rights,” he tweeted, adding that he doesn’t believe Belgium will comply with the request.

“They will seek to humiliate us and make us have a hard time, but such a monstrosity will NEVER prosper in a State of Law like Belgium,” he wrote.

Rafael Correa


Agradezco a tod@s sus muestras de solidaridad ante este nuevo y grave atropello a la justicia y mis derechos.
Yo estoy bien. No se preocupen.
Buscarán humillarnos y hacernos pasar un mal rato, pero una monstruosidad así JAMÁS prosperará en un Estado de Derecho como Bélgica.

One of the milestones of Correa’s foreign policy became granting asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2012, who has since been holed up in the country’s embassy in London’s Knightsbridge. The move drew anger from the UK and the US, who sought the whistleblower’s arrest.

Correa was replaced in power by his former ally Lenin Moreno in April last year, after a close-call election. At the time, Correa welcomed Moreno’s victory as a “triumph of revolution.”

However, the two have since fallen out, with Correa branding Moreno a “traitor” and “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” after the latter proposed a constitutional referendum to limit the number of presidential terms, thus barring Correa from seeking re-election in 2021. The referendum held on February 4 ended in a victory for the Moreno government, with the majority of Ecuadorians voting to introduce the changes.

Moreno has signaled there will be a U-turn in the South American country’s foreign policy from Correa’s anti-American posture after he signed a security agreement with the US in April of this year.

The new president also took a tougher stance on Assange, calling him “more than a nuisance” and a “hacker,” which is more in line with the rhetoric coming from Washington. Although Moreno agreed to extend Assange’s asylum, the WikiLeaks founder’s Internet access and visitor rights were restricted over what the Ecuadorian government sees as his controversial online political activity.

Since February, Correa has been a host of his own show ‘A Conversation with Correa’ on RT Spanish, where he has interviewed prominent guests from Latin American political circles and beyond. Among those who sat down with the ex-president on the show were Brazilian ex-Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, Argentina’s ex-leader Cristina Kirchner, American philosopher Noam Chomsky and others

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Ecuador Hints It May Hand Over Julian Assange to Britain and the US

Julian Assange is in immense danger. Remarks made this week by Ecuador’s foreign minister suggest that her government may be preparing to renege on the political asylum it granted to the WikiLeaks editor in 2012 and hand him over to British and then American authorities.

On March 28, under immense pressure from the governments in the US, Britain and other powers, Ecuador imposed a complete ban on Assange having any Internet or phone contact with the outside world, and blocked his friends and supporters from physically visiting him. For 45 days, he has not been heard from.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa stated in a Spanish-language interview on Wednesday that her government and Britain “have the intention and the interest that this be resolved.” Moves were underway, she said, to reach a “definite agreement” on Assange.

If Assange falls into the hands of the British state, he faces being turned over to the US. Last year, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that putting Assange on trial for espionage was a “priority.” CIA director Mike Pompeo, now secretary of state, asserted that WikiLeaks was a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”

In 2010, WikiLeaks courageously published information leaked by then Private Bradley [now Chelsea] Manning that exposed war crimes committed by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. WikiLeaks also published, in partnership with some of the world’s major newspapers, tens of thousands of secret diplomatic cables, exposing the daily anti-democratic intrigues of US imperialism and numerous other governments.

For that, Assange was relentlessly persecuted by the Obama administration. By November 2010, it had convened a secret grand jury and had a warrant issued for his arrest on charges of espionage—charges that can carry the death sentence. The then Labor Party government in Australia headed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard threw Assange, an Australian citizen, to the wolves. It refused to provide him any defence and declared it would work with the US to have him detained and put on trial.

On June 19, 2012, under conditions in which he faced extradition to Sweden to answer questions over fabricated allegations of sexual assault, and the prospect of rendition to the United States, Assange sought asylum in the Ecuador’s embassy in London.

Since that time, for nearly six years, he has been largely confined to a small room with no direct sunlight. He has been prevented from leaving, even to obtain medical treatment, by the British government’s insistence it will arrest him for breaching bail as soon as he sets foot outside the embassy.

Now, for six weeks and three days, he has been denied even the right to communicate.

Jennifer Robinson, the British-based Australian lawyer who has represented Assange since 2010, told the London Times in an interview this month:

“His health situation is terrible. He’s had a problem with his shoulder for a very long time. It requires an MRI [magnetic resonance imaging scan], which cannot be done within the embassy. He’s got dental issues. And then there’s the long-term impact of not being outside, his visual impairment. He wouldn’t be able to see further than from here to the end of this hallway.”

The effort to haul Assange before a US court is inseparable from the broader campaign underway by the American state and allied governments to impose sweeping censorship on the Internet. Lurid allegations of “Russian meddling” in the 2016 US election and denunciations of “fake news” have been used to demand that Google, Facebook and other conglomerates block users from accessing websites that publish critical commentary and exposures of the ruling class and its agencies—including WikiLeaks and the World Socialist Web Site.

WikiLeaks has been absurdly denounced as “pro-Russia” because it published leaks from the US Democratic Party National Committee that revealed the anti-democratic intrigues the party’s leaders carried out to undermine the campaign of Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary elections. It also published leaked speeches of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that further exposed her intimate relations with Wall Street banks and companies.

As part of the justification for Internet censorship, US intelligence agencies allege, without any evidence, that the information was hacked by Russian operatives and supplied to WikiLeaks to undermine Clinton and assist Trump—whom Moscow purportedly considered the “lesser evil.”

In response to the hysterical allegations, WikiLeaks broke its own tradition of not commenting on its sources. It publicly denied that Russia was the source of the leaks. That has not prevented the campaign from continuing, with Assange even being labelled “the Kremlin’s useful idiot” in pro-Democratic Party circles. WikiLeaks is blamed for Clinton’s defeat, not the reality, that tens of millions of American workers were repulsed by her right-wing, pro-war campaign and refused to vote for her.

Under conditions in which the Ecuadorian government has capitulated to great power pressure and is collaborating with British and US agencies to break Julian Assange, there is an almost universal and reprehensible silence on the part of dozens of organisations and hundreds of individuals who once claimed to defend him and WikiLeaks.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which in February 2016 condemned Assange’s persecution as “a form of arbitrary detention” and called for his release, has issued no statement on his current situation.

In Britain, the Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn have said nothing on the actions by Ecuador. Nor have they opposed the determination of the Conservative government to arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy.

In Australia, the current Liberal-National government and Labor leadership are just as complicit. The Greens, which claimed to oppose the persecution of Assange, have not made any statement in parliament or issued a press release, let alone called for public protests. Hundreds of editors, journalists, academics, artists and lawyers across the country who publicly defended WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011 are now mute.

A parallel situation prevails across Europe and in the US. The so-called parties of the “left” and the trade unions are all tacitly endorsing the vicious drive against Assange.

Around the world, the Stalinist and Pabloite pseudo-left organisations, anxious not to disrupt their sordid relations with the parties of the political establishment and the trade union apparatuses, are likewise silent.

The World Socialist Web Site and the International Committee of the Fourth International unconditionally defend Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. If the ruling elite can haul him before a court, it will hold him up as an example of what happens to those who speak out against social inequality, militarism, war and police-state measures. His prosecution would be used to try to intimidate and silence all dissent.

If Assange is imprisoned or worse, and WikiLeaks shut down, it will be a serious blow to the democratic rights of the entire international working class.

Workers and young people should join with the WSWS and ICFI in demanding and fighting for the immediate freedom of Julian Assange.

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Ecuador’s Public Healthcare System Named Most Innovative by UN

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Public health care in Ecuador was internationally recognized as the most innovative and progressive in the world when they were awarded the United Nations Public Service Award.

The prestigious award, presented on June 23, praised the South American country’s delivery of health services which Ecuadoreans have access to through the Public Health Network (RPIS), from which stem other branches of state medical aid such as the Ministry of Public Health (MSP), Ecuadorean Institute of Social Security (ISSFA), and the National Police Social Security Institute (ISSPOL).

Ecuadoreans will receive medical attention from any one of these institutions at any location, irrespective of their member status or their economic situation per the country’s constitution which guarantees free health care.

Additionally, Ecuador’s public health takes a step further, breaking convention and putting the welfare of its citizens first. In the case that a medical procedure is not available in the country, the patient in sent outside the country to undergo medical aid, free of charge.

One such case was that of Sofia Echeverria, a young woman who had suffered from biliary atresia, a sickness of the liver, since birth. As liver transplant is impossible in Ecuador, she was sent to the Austral Hospital in Argentina to undergo surgery.

Since its initiation, RPIS has treated more than 8 million patients and members the state medical institutions as well as transferred 40,000 to outside private services.

“This has implied great changes in our institutions and state officials attitude since the system was divided and full of barriers that did not allow citizens to benefit from hospital services due to the lack of funds,” Minister of Health, Veronica Espinosa stated.

Espinosa said that despite the progress made, there is still much left to do.

The minister explained the need for a legislative framework which will guarantee universal medical care for future generations – a proposal that will be discussed at the National Assembly.

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Ecuador: From Marxist Guerrilla to State Lawmaker

From Marxist Guerrilla to State Lawmaker: The Life and Times of Rosa Mireya Cardenas
  • Former Alfaro Vive Carajo rebel Rosa Mireya Cardenas was recently elected to the Andean Parliament.
    Former Alfaro Vive Carajo rebel Rosa Mireya Cardenas was recently elected to the Andean Parliament. | Photo: Andes Agency / Facebook

Cardenas’ message now is for Ecuador never to return to its dark past when the state used violence as a tool of social control.

The room was dark, cold and dirty. Rats scurried past her naked body, climbing over her legs, trying to reach the pieces of bread scattered around her.

But she could not move or cry. Otherwise, she was told, the dogs would bite.

RELATED:  Ecuador: 22 Indigenous, Social Movement Groups Endorse Moreno

They had placed cold water to drip on her head and had left a pack of dogs to attack her if she tried to get up.

The days of electrocution, physical beatings and no food and water eventually tore her down.

“I was convinced I was going to die there, I even decided I was going to die there,” Rosa Mireya Cardenas recalled more than three decades later.

It was the summer of 1984 and Cardenas, on route from Panama to Nicaragua, was captured by what she believes were CIA agents at the Juan Santamaria airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. Taken to a safe house, she was physically and psychologically tortured for eight days straight.

Cardenas, a member of Alfaro Vive Carajo, a former Marxist guerilla group based in Ecuador, was grilled relentlessly by the agents over her involvement with AVC and other leftist movements in Latin America. From there, she was turned over to the Ecuadorean military, where under the regime of Leon Febres-Cordero, she endured more brutality and torture.

Now, 33 years later, the former guerilla revolutionary has been elected to South America’s Andean Parliament, winning one of the highest numbers of votes to secure her new post as legislator.

From guerilla tactics to electoral politics

But how did a militant activist stigmatized as criminal get elected to political office?

The answer lies in the original aims of AVC, as well as the start of the Citizen’s Revolution under President Rafael Correa.

In the spring of 1983, the union of students, workers, campesinos, socialists, communists and others from the revolutionary left sought to fill what they perceived as a void of political leadership, just a year before “the most repressive government in Ecuador’s history” came to power.

“(There) existed in the popular movement … scattered union struggles and guilds, local peasant movements without a national cause,” explained Cardenas, adding that even “during the insurgent struggle we never deviate(d) from a political objective.”

And it was years after the brutality of Febres-Cordero’s rule, that Correa’s government, elected in 2006, set up the Truth Commission, carving out space for AVC members and other torture victims during Ecuador’s most repressive era, to seek some semblance of justice.

CIA torture and Operation Condor

It was after first being tortured in the safe house in Costa Rica, and then by the Ecuadorean military, that Cardenas speculated that the torture tactics she endured were the same used under Operation Condor — the covert but coordinated U.S.-backed regional counterinsurgency strategy that assassinated and disappeared thousands of left-wing activists across multiple countries in the 1970s and 80s in the name of propping up right-wing dictatorships in South America and quashing the threat of communist expansion.

“Undoubtedly and with complete assurance,” Cardenas told teleSUR when asked about the ties, adding that the torture methods were the same in both Costa Rica and Ecuador, and that they fit descriptions of CIA interrogation strategies.

“After eight days, they sent me back to Ecuador, without any legal basis, and they placed me again in the hands of the Ecuador military. And here in the barracks, it was an underground building, they applied the same tactics that they used in Costa Rica — no food, no sleep, putting cold water and electrocuting me, they laughed at me, made fun of me,” she recalled.

“The agents who intervened had foreign accents,” she added, explaining that Costa Rica did not even have a military or police institution at the time, giving her more reason to believe she was tortured by CIA agents.

Indeed, the quarters where Cardenas endured physical and psychological brutality in Quito, Ecuador, was a torture lab built using a CIA manual. While Ecuador has never officially been linked to Operation Condor, evidence alarmingly suggests otherwise.

A report released in 2010 by the Truth Commission found that 68 percent of the 456 victims that endured violent human rights violations between 1984 and 2008 were brutalized under the government of Febres-Cordero, in power from 1984 to 1988. The report also found that torture and illegal detention occurred the most under his rule.

Detained for another five months in Quito and charged with illicit association, Cardenas regained her freedom in January 1985 after being declared innocent by judges.

Reviving “Alfarismo” and the Citizen’s Revolution

In her early years with AVC, Cardenas traveled from Nicaragua, where she worked alongside the Sandinista National Liberation Front, to Libya, where she received political and military training. For, indeed, AVC’s goal was to recover Alfarismo — that is, to revive the legacy of Eloy Alfaro, president of Ecuador from 1895 to 1901 and then again from 1906 to 1911, and his revolutionary spirit.

“What is Alfaro Vive’s contribution? It is precisely to piece together the image of Eloy Alfaro, to show that Alfaro’s struggle was a struggle of the people, not of the elites, to bring back these objectives which we continue to fight for,” Cardenas told teleSUR.

The group worked for years to assimilate back into civilian life, working with human rights and cultural organizations to dispel their reputation of violence that was propagated by the Febres-Cordero regime. But it was through the work of the Truth Commission that Ecuadoreans learned of the brutality its members faced at the hands of the state.

“The space created by the Truth Commission was important to integrate us into the … Citizen Revolution, which opened up large spaces for participation, mobilization and social organization through the Constituent Assembly,” explained Cardenas, referring to the process that rewrote Ecuador’s constitution in 2008.

WATCH: Reparations in Ecuador for state torture

She said the aims of AVC in 1983 were mirrored in Correa’s Citizen Revolution, the program of progressive social and economic transformation launched under the banner of 21st Century Socialism when his government took office in 2007. They were both inspired by Eloy Alfaro’s radical Liberal Revolution and interested in “democracy, social justice, economic independence, national sovereignty and Latin American unity.”

The Truth Commission denounced the crimes committed by the government of Febres-Cordero, taking into account the testimonies of victims and their family. After it was created in May 2007, AVC members, alongside other victims, were given a space in the government’s Support Committee. Over the years, they have poured over confidential state files from that period.

Since then, a reparation process has seen been set up for the victims of Febres-Cordero’s government, consisting of “the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators, the dignification of memory and possible economic compensation”, explained Cardenas.

Claiming a struggle against history

In the Andean Parliament now as a member of Alianza Pais, Correa’s left party, Cardenas will be working to promote gender equality, fair trade and the work of social organizations, among other initiatives.

RELATED: Ecuador Latin Kings Gang Transformed by Citizens’ Revolution

But with Ecuador’s second round of presidential elections slated to take place April 2, the country stands at a critical crossroads. South America’s leftist resurgence — commonly referred to as the Pink Tide — has seen recent blows, with neoliberal governments in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil rolling back progressive gains of recent years. If neoliberal, right-wing former banker Guillermo Lasso is elected as president, Ecuador would be set to course through that same trajectory.

However, all of the latest polls predict a win for Alianza Pais’ left-wing candidate, Lenin Moreno, who led his conservative rival by over 10 percent in the first round of voting.

Cardenas, and others who are part of the anti-imperialist left, hope that Ecuador will stay on its left-wing path of the past decade.

For her one message now is to never “repeat the history of the period when violence was established as a state policy.”

That, she said, is “beyond the legitimate desire for justice … not only to heal, but to claim a struggle against history.”

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Foreign-Funded NGOs in Ecuador: Trojan Horse for Intervention?

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Ecuador has come under fire for scrutinizing non-profits like Accion Ecologica, many of whom get millions from Europe and North America.

Ecuador, the tiny South American nation sandwiched between Colombia and Peru, rarely makes waves in the English-speaking world’s corporate mediascape. Last year, news traveled far on at least two occasions.

First, with an earthquake that killed at least 673 people. Second, when the government moved to investigate and potentially dissolve a nonprofit called Accion Ecologica in connection with deadly violence between members of an Amazonian tribe and police sent to protect a Chinese-operated mining project.

Ecologists and prominent activists friendly to the group, including heavy-weights such as Naomi Klein, called out what they characterized as a callous repression and criminalization of Indigenous people protecting the unparalleled richness of the Amazon and alleged state prejudice against an underdog non-profit organization that was only there to save the rainforest and its inhabitants.

Ecuador’s socialist government, on the other hand, sees the “underdog” label as misplaced.

NGOs may be seen as do-gooders, but that’s not always the case. As a country historically vulnerable to the whims of powers in the North, Ecuador has, under the administration of the outgoing President Rafael Correa, put up a guard against a new kind of public diplomacy from abroad that focuses on gaining the favor of civil society to indirectly execute their political priorities.

NGOs are flagged when they operate outside the bounds of the law and their stated objectives, indicators of potential pressure from outside funders to protect their interests rather than those of nationals.

“We’re an Ecuadorean NGO, born here in Ecuador and working for 30 years in the defense of the rights of the environment and of communities across the country, and for that work we are very well known, even at an international level,” Alexandra Almeida, president of Accion Ecologica, told teleSUR.

“But that doesn’t mean that a foreign organization could manipulate us with anything — with funds, with nothing — that’s how we operate.”

NGOs have rarely had to justify their work to anyone, let alone prove that they act for the good of the people only. But Ecuador is not an ordinary country. Rich in resources but export dependent, authorities are attempting to manage the many foreign hands trying to pull the country’s development in their favor.

Silent Action Meets Loud Reaction

This government is the first to scrutinize NGOs, but their scrutiny has not been limited to Accion Ecologica.

In 2012, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa boldly declared that NGOs have been entering the country like never before during the previous decade. Many, backed by foreign states and foreign money, are out to destabilize the state, Ecuadorean leaders stated.

“Their interest is not the country, impoverished sectors, natural resources or strengthening democracies,” said Paola Pabon, director of the National Ministry of Political Management, which is responsible for tracking NGOs, in an interview with teleSUR last year. “What interests them is having control over governments, having influence over civil society to create elements of destabilization.”

Executive Decree 16, which went into effect in 2013, created a system to catalogue the financing, decision-making and activities of every registered social organization — a total of over 46,000 in the country, including non-profits, unions and community organizations, among others.

The resulting action saw 26 foreign NGOs expelled from the country for a lack of transparency and compliance with national law; in brief, for declaring themselves “non-governmental organizations” while acting on behalf of foreign governments. Among the more high-profile cases was Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical missionary relief organization that received funding and support from USAID. Fifteen others were given two weeks to get their activities in order.

A handful of Indigenous organizations, which had previously mobilized against Correa’s government, attacked the decree via the Constitutional Court. Two years later, Ecuador reformed the regulations with Executive Decree 739, which fine-tuned the reasons for closing an NGO — the main one, “diverting from stated objectives” — and, caving to demand, eliminated the requirement for organizations to register projects financed from abroad.

Donor Nations: Generous or Greedy?

The trend that prompted Ecuador’s law was not without precedent.

Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, known as USAID, and the linked but publicly independent National Endowment for Democracy, known as NED, the United States pumped over US$100 million into Venezuela to create 300 new organizations credited with contributing to the coup d’etat against Hugo Chavez in 2002. In a similar move, USAID admitted that it tried to provoke a “Cuban Spring” by setting up Zunzuneo, a kind of Cuban Twitter, to circulate calls to protest.

The most common nonprofits close to foreign governments and private interests are those that stand tallest against their states. In Ecuador, that tends to be groups that work closely with Indigenous communities, with those protecting their right to their land and with those defending women and the environment. Funding by private foundations and corporations, while more widespread, is far less transparent and tougher to quantify. Big names like the Ford Foundation and Open Society, however, are well known for injecting funds into NGOs in the global south to advance specific political visions.

But the United States isn’t the only country to have funneled funds to Ecuador through NGOs.

Official numbers from Ecuador’s Chief Administrative Office of International Cooperation, or SETECI, show that since Correa assumed office in 2007 until 2015, foreign NGOs have managed over US$800 million from abroad. Top givers include the U.K. and Spain, followed by several European states.

No one, however, beats the United States. In that same period, the U.S. sent over twice the amount of money of the next-highest donor, with a total of over US$282 million and 780 projects, or 35 percent of all funding.

Of those funds, which only count NGOs based abroad that invested in local or regional projects, 13 went to projects in the Amazon led by non-profits like Care International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas. Projects based in Morona Santiago, the province where the anti-mining protests that led to the death of a police officer broke out, brought in over US$1 million from the U.S. since 2007.

The flow of funds is indicative of a broader attitude between receiver and giver, who “take advantage of the assumption that they have a perfect democracy, which is completely false – there’s a paternalistic attitude that must be regulated,” said Fernando Casado, research fellow at the National Institute for Higher Studies on public administration in Ecuador and Venezuela. Conversely, a flow in the opposite direction would immediately raise suspicion from developed countries, he added.

Yet money itself doesn’t tell the full tale: the funds are tied directly to foreign policy objectives, Casado told teleSUR. “The powers of the North have changed strategy.”

Each state has its own way. Germany, which has had 151 NGO projects in Ecuador since 2007, is known for meddling in affairs of developing countries through its Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, or BMZ. When SETECI found that three-quarters of its funds went toward stopping another mining project in the Amazon’s Yasuni region last March, it kicked the German agency out of Ecuador.

The United States has several agencies do its work, the most prominent being USAID, NED — funded through money allocated to USAID by Congress — and the Broadcast Board of Governors. The stated missions: to promote development, democracy creation and a free press, respectively, while strictly adhering to U.S. foreign policy priorities.

“We should not have to do this kind of work covertly,” said former head of NED Carl Gershman on CIA missions to the New York Times in 1986. “It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA. We saw that in the 60s, and that’s why it has been discontinued. We have not had the capability of doing this, and that’s why the endowment was created.”

What Givers Want

The “work” the United States has set out for Ecuador — according to a 2016 Office of Inspector General report on the U.S. embassy leaked by WikiLeaks — is “to mitigate the effects of the contentious political environment created by the Ecuadorean Government” with the help of other government agencies, which play a “critical role.”

The report, intended for the eyes of the BBG and Congress, said the embassy was “actively engaged with civil society leaders and nongovernmental organizations to increase Ecuadorean awareness of and support for U.S. policies and values, promote Ecuadorean civil society and government accountability, and strengthen environmental initiatives.”

To set up a climate conducive to U.S. meddling, the U.S. Government Accountability Office included Ecuador on a shortlist with Colombia, Egypt and the West Bank/Gaza the year Correa was elected to closely study public opinion in “specific, targeted public awareness campaigns.”

It also either commissioned or was the beneficiary of a study from Stratfor, a secretive intelligence company contracted by the State Department and the U.S.’s multinational titans, which evaluated the extent to which Ecuador is manipulable by NGOs. The 2013 report, leaked by WikiLeaks, focused especially on how NGOs can influence trade policy and corporate regulation. Its conclusion: based on a scale likely defined in relation to other developing nations, Ecuador is fairly resilient to NGO pressure but has submitted in certain instances.

USAID sends hundreds of millions to local projects in Ecuador, some less explicitly political, but some indirectly benefiting opposition groups, according to U.S. Ambassador in Ecuador Adam Namm. BBG affiliate, TeleAmazonas, has been accused of fomenting strong opposition rhetoric against Correa. And the NED spends over US$1 million annually on dozens of local programs with broad objectives like “promoting citizen oversight of elected officials,” “monitoring due process and the independence of the judicial system,” “monitoring the use of public resources in government advertising” and “facilitating dialogue and consensus on democracy.”

Both Germany’s BMZ and USAID are back in Ecuador following a deluge of NGO activity after the April earthquake. The workload of the National Ministry of Political Management has peaked ever since, said Pabon.

The Sneaky Alliance With Mother Earth

One pet project of USAID was the Conservation in Managed Indigenous Areas, or Caiman, which ended before Correa took office but was among several USAID programs to conserve the country’s biodiversity and promote alliances between Indigenous communities and private businesses.

Caiman worked with various groups working in ecological and Indigenous rights, including Accion Ecologica. For several years, Caiman had Accion Ecologica help them battle against the Ministry of the Environment and train park rangers to oppose contamination from oil and mining.

Whether or not USAID or foreign foundations have funded Accion Ecologica directly is unclear. Unlike many others in the industry, the non-profit does not publish its financial information on its website, and refused multiple requests from teleSUR for copies of audits. When asked, the organization’s president said she does not know specifics on foreign funders and could not answer.

Almeida did say that Accion Ecologica receives funds from Europe — from individuals, “small organizations, alliances, groups that form” around fundraising events on ecological issues. She did not say how much or cite specific names but mentioned Italy and Belgium.

A 2012 investigation from Andes, an Ecuadorean state publication, found that both Accion Ecologica and the Regional Foundation of Human Rights Advising, another powerful nonprofit, are financed by the European Commission, Oilwatch, the Netherlands embassy and a few international ecological networks. Almeida said the accusations were false.

While Europe may be the principal interested party in the success of Accion Ecologica, the U.S. is also well known to have played an active role in similar battles.

In 2013, the year after Correa took the lead against foreign NGOs and a year before he expelled USAID, Bolivia accused USAID of spending US$22 million to divide Indigenous groups on the exploitation and nationalization of oil in their lands.

“Since the right can’t find arguments to oppose the process of change, it now turns to campesino, Indigenous and native leaders who are paid by several NGOs and foundations with perks to foment a climate of conflict with the national government to deteriorate the process of unification that the country is experiencing,” said Morales as he gave USAID the boot.

Beyond Accion Ecologica

“Theoretically speaking, NGOs shouldn’t exist,” said Casado. NGOs operate within a logic of narrowing, minimizing and weakening the role of the state so they can keep filling holes in public services and keep their jobs, which are at risk of disappearing if the state works as it should, added Casado.

“They elect themselves representatives of civil society in general,” and yet their role is limited and entirely reliant on and responsive to funding, which at the end of the day remains in their pockets. Other social organizations and popular movements, said Casado, operate only on conviction.

If an NGO is completely free to operate without regulations, a country would open itself to any corporate and foreign interest that found an open hand, he argued. Latin America is intimately familiar with that process — of consolidating power in the monied class — and NGOs back similar corporate interests, only with a more benevolent face.

It’s near-impossible to identify the perfect case of foreign intrusion — and, as in Accion Ecologica’s case, near-impossible to prove. Multiple factors are always at play, from the ideology of individual members to the decision-making process to however events play out on the ground. Casado said that the first step to uncovering hidden interests is financial transparency — a move that faces stiff opposition precisely for the interests that it could reveal.

Ecuador’s answer is to carefully collect records and draw a clear line between what is acceptable and what is not. Foreign NGOs, state the decree, cannot participate “in any form of party politics, any form of interference or proselytism, any threat to national security or public peace or any other activity not permitted under their migratory status.”

Case Closed?

When Accion Ecologica testified before the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of the Environment, it argued that it had been doing the same work — protecting the rainforest — for decades, always in a peaceful manner. The evidence presented showing they provoked violence through a series of tweets in and around the time of violent clashes was “a bit absurd, very absurd,” said Almeida.

In the end, the government’s case did not hold, and the Environment Ministry concluded there was not enough credible evidence to shut down the group. Accion Ecologica credited “pressure” from its supporters, as its representatives continue to urge for a deregulation of NGOs.

“It’s not only NGOs, but also any organization that will be at risk, especially their right to free expression and the right to free association” if the decree regulating NGOs remains intact, said Almeida.

Her position echoes those taken up by opposition politicians, whose one commonality is their depiction of Correa’s government as one systematically trouncing on citizens’ rights and freedoms.

In an election year, rhetoric makes the difference.

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Mujica and Correa Make Plans for the Bank of the South

  • Former Uruguayan President Jose "Pepe" Mujica (L) meets with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (R) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Jan. 18, 2017
    Former Uruguayan President Jose “Pepe” Mujica (L) meets with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (R) in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Jan. 18, 2017 | Photo: El Telegrafo
The two met to map out the details of the bank which will offer an alternative to the neoliberalism of the World Bank and IMF.

While many spent Saturday reflecting on the past 10 years of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s Citizens’ Revolution in anticipation of Sunday’s election, Correa himself met with former Uruguayan President Jose Mujica to plan the future of the Bank of the South, Latin America’s alternative to the World Bank and the IMF.

RELATED: Latin America’s Left Funds ‘Bank of the South’ to Rival the IMF

The two met in the coastal city of Guayaquil with Pedro Buonomo, the interim director of the Bank of the South, to discuss the political and economic character of the Bank, as well as its institutional structure and headquarters.

The Bank of the South is an initiative of UNASUR, the regional alliance of progressive Latin American governments, which will provide an alternative to the neo-liberal austerity practices of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund which have impoverished so many countries in the global south and created a form of neo-colonialism through indebtedness.

According to El Telegrafo, during the meeting Buonomo, the former finance minister of Uruguay, proposed that both Correa and Mujica, known to many as “the world’s poorest president,” take on a formal role as “promotional ambassadors” for the Bank, to both help consolidate the fledgling institution as well as encourage a change in central bank policies throughout the region.

During his 10 years as President of Ecuador, Correa oversaw a decade of what the Overseas Development Institute called “the world’s most inclusive growth,” which included a doubling of social spending — funded by an increase in corporate taxes and drastically reducing tax avoidance among the wealthy — which cut poverty in half while preventing inflation and boosting overall economic growth in the country.

In September of last year the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela committed US$4.5 million to cover the costs of operation and administration during the formative period of the Bank of the South.

Mujica is also in Ecuador as part of a UNASUR delegation to observe Sunday’s presidential election.

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Ecuador Assumes G77 Leadership, Vows to Fight Tax Havens

  • Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa speaks at the U.N. April, 2016

    Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa speaks at the U.N. April, 2016 | Photo: AFP

Ecuador will use its chair at the head of the world’s largest organization of developing states to tackle tax havens and the corruption they breed.

President of Ecuador Rafael Correa assume the chairmanship of the Group of 77 in New York on Friday, the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries at the U.N., for the first time in the Andean nation’s history.

RELATED: Ecuador to Propose Global End to Tax Havens

Correa said that his country’s election to chair the group, whose mission is to promote South-South cooperation and enhance joint negotiating capacity within the U.N. system, is a “global recognition” that the development that has taken place under his government’s leadership is of interest “to the region and the world.”

In remarks to the press before leaving for U.N. headquarters in New York, where Correa will formally take over G77 leadership from Thailand, he highlighted his goal to use Ecuador’s mandate to tackle the global problem of international tax havens.

“Tax havens are one of the largest manifestations of savage capitalism,” he noted, adding “We will insist that tax havens be banned to avoid corruption, money laundering, and tax evasion.”

“We are going to give it much greater impetus because (tax havens) are one of the great enemies of developing nations,” he said. “They mainly harm the poor nations that need these resources. Our oligarchies make that money in our countries, often in a bad way, and send it to those tax havens where capital has no face.”

Correa is leading the campaign against corporate and individual tax fraud by example, having launched a national referendum in Ecuador where citizens will vote in February on a proposed ban on public servants or elected officials holding money in offshore tax havens.

Correa launched both his national and international campaigns against tax avoidance after the massive Panama Papers leaks which showed hundreds of prominent politicians – including Ecuadorian presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso, and Argentine President Mauricio Macri – were using Panamanian banks to avoid paying legally owed taxes.

RELATED: The Latest: New Panama Papers Embroil Latin American Elite

He told reporters on Thursday that Ecuador’s other priorities during its term would be protecting the world’s oceans, ensuring that transnational corporations respect human rights, and addressing the crushing external debts imposed on countries who have been subject to enforced under-development by international monetary organizations such as the World Bank and IMF.

Correa ended his remarks by noting that he wanted to use Ecuador’s one-year term as head of the coalition of 134 nations from the Global South to demonstrate that at the U.N., the General Assembly should “make the most important decisions, and not a group of privileged countries based on the military power they have.”

This will likely be Correa’s last official visit to the U.N. as his term as president ends in May.

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Sandra Naranjo Appointed Vice President of Ecuador

  • Sandra Naranjo, a graduate in economics and finance with a specialization in mathematics, will still be in charge of the National Secretariat for Planning and Development
    Sandra Naranjo, a graduate in economics and finance with a specialization in mathematics, will still be in charge of the National Secretariat for Planning and Development | Photo: Andes.
She is the second woman in the country’s history to hold this position.

National Secretary of Planning Sandra Naranjo, will be the vice president of the Republic of Ecuador until Feb. 19, replacing the incumbent, Jorge Glas, while he runs as the vice presidential candidate on the governing Alianza Pais ticket with Lenin Moreno as the presidential candidate.

RELATED: Ecuador Starts Presidential Race, Correa’s Former Vice President Leads

Secretary of Communication Patricio Barriga confirmed Wednesday night the appointment of Naranjo. He wrote from his Twitter account: “@MashiRafael appoints @sandynaranjo vice president of the Republic. Extraordinary woman of Tonga, a great professional.”

Sandra Naranjo, a graduate in economics and finance with a specialization in mathematics, will remain in charge of the National Secretariat for Planning and Development (SENPLADES), a post she’s held since October 2015. Previously she was Minister of Tourism.

She is the second woman to serve as vice president of Ecuador, the first being Rosalía Arteaga, who was elected as vice president in 1996 and served in that role for two years.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly approved the unpaid leave of Vice President Glas, with 75 affirmative votes and 19 abstentions.

Glass’ request is in accordance with article 93 of the Code of Democracy, which states that “dignitaries who opt for immediate re-election” may use the unpaid leave “from the registration of their candidatures until the day after the elections.”

Over 12 million Ecuadorian voters will go to the polls on February 19 to select one of the eight candidates running for President. They will also elect the members of the National Assembly and the representatives to the Andean Parliament. Voting is mandatory in the country for all eligible voters, with voting age beginning at 16.

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