EspañolEcuador’s central government moved one step closer to achieving its goal of unlimited reelection for public officials on Friday. The Constitutional Court unanimously surrendered determination of the issue to a majority vote in the National Assembly.
The decision is a setback for the opposition, given their request that the amendment be decided by a popular referendum. With the decision in the hands of the Ecuadorean Congress, it becomes highly likely that President Rafael Correa will remain in power beyond the end of his current term in 2017.
Unlimited reelection is one of 17 reforms submitted by assembly members to the Constitutional Court for review. Among these is the conversion of social communication into a public service, the empowerment of the Armed Forces to support the police in domestic security, and a modification of the age limit necessary to run for president.
‘The Constitutional Court has just ruled that amendments can now be addressed by the Legislative Assembly and approved by a two thirds majority,” explained Correa during his Citizen Link program, broadcast every Saturday on both radio and television.
The court justices arrived at their decision after two days of debate and legal analysis in the coastal city of Guayaquil. The only amendment not to pass for congressional approval was the “protective action” provision, which would remove a legal remedy for protection from state persecution (PDF). It alone requires a special constitutional assembly for implementation and cannot be passed by the National Assembly.
“We present the country with our decision, absolutely convinced that it has been the object of analysis, reasoning, and argument … which correspond to regulations, studies, and analysis of convention [which] ultimately seek to guarantee and protect the citizens of the country,” the court declared in a press release.
As to the possibility that Correa will run for reelection in 2017, the president has said that he will only do so if the continuity of the country’s “citizen revolution” is threatened. He notes that the power remains in the hands of the voters.
“What is at stake is the people’s right to choose between the hunger and misery of the neoliberal past, and the future of well-being, development, and inclusion established by the citizen revolution,” said Doris Soliz Carrión, national executive secretary of the PAIS Alliance Party.
Opposition Won’t Let Go of Constituent Referendum
Days before the Constitutional Court arrived at its decision, the political opposition worked to collect signatures requesting that any constitutional amendment be deliberated on by a popular, nation-wide referendum.
Guillermo Lasso, a banker and former presidential candidate, leads this initiative. He is a member of Creating Opportunities (CREO), a liberal movement and secondary political force in the country. Lasso has declared that he will demand the necessary paperwork from the National Electoral Council to begin collecting signatures.
“The Constitutional Court has once again become the legal and political arm of the regime. This decision consolidates the position of the regime to insure that unlimited reelection happens within the four walls [of congress],” claims CREO representative Luis Fernando Torres.
Chávez’s Shadow over the Region
At present, the Ecuadorean Constitution allows for immediate presidential reelection for one term. If the new amendment is approved by the National Assembly, Ecuador will join Venezuela, Bolivia, and other countries that allow for unlimited reelection of government officials.
Venezuela has had indefinite reelection since Hugo Chávez managed to pass a constitutional amendment in 2009, with 54 percent of the vote. Bolivia followed, also in 2009, with a constitutional convention and the same outcome. Doctor Mario Serrafero, professor of institutional analysis at ESEADE University in Buenos Aires, also wrote in a 2011 essay that Hugo Chavez’s influence proved instrumental in the election of Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2005 and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa in 2006.
Translated by Peter Sacco. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.
EspañolThough the world is strife with conflict, oppression, and the changing of political vanguards, fighters for individual rights and peaceful resistance put time aside last week to share strategies, stories, and learn from one another in one of Scandinavia’s most pristine cities. The latest installment of the Oslo Freedom Forum, delayed five months thanks to a striking hotel employees’ union, was held once again last week in Oslo, Norway, the unofficial capital for political dissidents and human-rights heroes. It’s the flashy event organized by the New York City-based Human Rights Foundation, one of the premier international organizations combating government violence against the bravest citizens. Thor Halvorssen, the brain and personality behind the operation, has made the event a must-attend for establishment media, nonprofit groups, and rights-conscious business people. The weaving together of so many different professions and nationalities makes it a memorable experience on its own. All in the breadth of half an hour, I was able to meet a business executive for a South Carolina candle company, a derivatives trader and risk analyst with unrivaled knowledge of the exact quantities of oil supplies across the Middle East, and a young Ivy League doctoral student inching up the academic ladder in order to return to politics in his home country of Rwanda. Small connections breed vastly deep discussions on the future of democratic reforms in China, police repression in Russia, and thuggish violence in Latin America. Business cards are swapped and deals are chalked up in initial stages. And that’s just after the first dinner. While the prime location, luxurious food, and quaint atmosphere may be Norwegian, the organization is stubbornly American. Young interns roam the halls and theater carrying coffee and posters, brushing elbows with many dissident heroes as they carry out their tasks. Sessions run on time, and equipment malfunctions are not tolerated. Participants are encouraged to Tweet and Facebook every second they can, and eager young organizers are always ready to help connect attendees with anyone they'd like. The effects are spectacular. Lighting and color are perfectly aligned and projected. The uniformity of so many speaker presentations, using the cool blue colors and high-quality images is a daunting task, but is carried out perfectly. Among the better sessions at the Freedom Forum was an emotional depiction of the violent police reactions to peaceful protesters in Russia in 2011, narrated by former Russian political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky. It featured the stories of young men and women who casually participated in the post-election protests and subsequently found themselves facing years in prison. The anti-Russian regime rhetoric wasn't contained to just Khodorkovsky's speech, however. It permeated throughout the entire event and the award ceremony. Presentations were riddled with casual criticisms of Russian President Vladamir Putin, even labeled an outright "dictator" by Newsweek culture editor Michael Moynihan during a moderated session. With the invasion of the eastern portions of Ukraine and the secession of Crimea often invoked, Anti-Putinsim was on everyone's mind. He was the easy villain to target. This culminated in the infamous Russian performance group Pussy Riot receiving the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent for their impromptu rock performance in a Moscow church which landed them in prison for 2 years for "hooliganism." "We like his hits," claimed Nadieżda Tołokonnikowa after bolstering the heavy prize. One wasn't certain whether she was being ironic or simply playful. A standing ovation followed her words regardless. And that summed up an emotional few days of story swapping, hobnobbing among the human-rights elite, and the humbling experience of meeting the individuals behind the international headlines. From Cubans to Chinese, North Koreans to Ghanians, the Oslo Freedom Forum featured some of the bravest and most captivating activists in our time. It's an event rife with politics and latest crazes in protests, but it's a worthy few days nonetheless. The sharing of insights and ideals is exactly what so many people at this event take back to their home countries, often to start peaceful revolutions and protests on their own. After all, there's nothing better than the kind of crazy ideas about individual rights, civil disobedience, and peaceful resistance one can learn among heroes and fighters.