Ecuador’s assault against free press

Mary O’Grady on how Obama Gives Ecuador’s Caudillo a Pass
Washington looks the other way as President Rafael Correa undermines the judiciary and the press.

Observe U.S. foreign policy in Latin America over the last two and a half years: In particular, consider how Honduras took a beating from the Obama administration over its decision to remove a law-breaking leftist president in 2009, while Ecuador is getting little pushback from Washington as it steps ever closer to dictatorship.

This contradiction became pronounced last month when Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, an ally of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, used his control of the judiciary to win a lawsuit against a columnist and three directors of the Ecuadoran daily El Universo. They will have to pay him a total of $42 million, and each has been sentenced to three years in jail.

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Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa

Mr. Obama’s State Department is treating the Ecuadoran incident gingerly. It issued a brief statement on the importance of a free press and said that it “join[s] the Inter American Press Association, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and others in expressing concern over the sentence in the El Universo case.” There will be an appeal, and State said it “will closely follow the process.” Yet with democracy in peril, that is downright timid—not to mention a little late—compared to the fury unleashed against Honduras two years ago.

In 2009, Honduras fought to save its democracy by removing then-President Manuel Zelaya, who had used street violence to try to extend his tenure in violation of his country’s constitution. The Obama administration responded by pulling the travel visas of Honduras’s Supreme Court judges, human rights ombudsman and members of Congress. It suspended most U.S. aid and supported the suspension of Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS), which resulted in the cutoff of aid from international financial institutions.

As with Mr. Zelaya, the administration has given Mr. Correa a wide berth, despite his antidemocratic practices. Since he took office in 2007, he has used both state power and mob violence to enforce his will whenever other branches of government do not cooperate with his agenda. And he has used his primitive definition of democracy—majority rules—to destroy his opponents, stifle dissent and consolidate power.

In a May referendum that Mr. Correa organized, he asked voters, among other things, to give him control of the judiciary and the power to bar owners of media companies from engaging in other businesses. The narrow approval he won portends the end of pluralism in his country.

It’s one more instance of democracy dying in our hemisphere while America turns a blind eye.

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