Español The Facebook page Crudo Ecuador (Raw Ecuador), dedicated to political satire and one of the main reasons why president Rafael Correa initiated a social-media battle in the country, announced on Thursday, February 19, that it is shutting down — including the associated website and Twitter accounts.
“Well, this is the end. #YouWon @MashiRafael.”
The administrator of the site, who remains anonymous to the public, has made this decision after claiming a threat against him and his family. He shared that strangers sent a bouquet of flowers with an anonymous note to him, in which they include his full name, details about his wife and children, and “warn” that he is being watched as long he continues with his “not so appropriate” activities.
“After feeling so much pressure and harassment by the government towards me, a citizen who simply exercised his right to speak in a space where, according to the law, we can still do it, I have decided withdraw from the battle initiated by you, Mr. President. Feel victorious, you won,” reads the statement released in Crudo Ecuador’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.
However, the statement emphasizes that President Rafael Correa did not “win the battle,” because of his constant attacks on him, or thanks to his war against government critics on social networks: “You won, but because I withdraw.”
“I withdraw because I cannot stand the harassment, this pressure of being investigated, persecuted, and wanted as criminal, just because of expressing an opinion and doing humor, and because you will never be able to understand how a citizen can have hundreds of thousands of followers by using only the head, not the wallet.”
Finally, the site manager thanked his followers for their support: “I hope you understand that in a country where human rights are violated publicly, I can’t go on.… One is too tiny in front of state power.”
Crudo Ecuador attached a photograph of the bouquet and the note he received during the carnival holiday, which reads:
“It’s good to have the opportunity to greet and congratulate you on such a beautiful family, your wife … and what to say about your two beautiful children … With satisfaction I must confess that it is my pleasure that you are in the province of Guayas, enjoying a well-deserved holiday, which will bring a moment of relaxation to you, which means a parentheses to so much stress that your ‘not so appropriate activities’ demand. Believe me, you will always have our interest and attention, as long as your courage lasts.”
“As much as I want to continue, my family comes first, and I will not expose them to this mafia.”
According to Fundamedios, an NGO that advocates for free speech and who was the first to publish Crudo Ecuador’s statement, during the holiday, the site manager had taken refuge in the house of a relative outside his usual place of residence, after receiving threats through social networks.
“No one outside his close family circle knew his whereabouts,” they asserted.
Furthermore, Fundamedios assures that he had preferred to defend his right to anonymity, but “government supporters had identified the site administrator, his wife, and even posted on Twitter photos of a possible stalking of him in a mall.”
#YouWon (#UstedGanó) was the hashtag that hundreds of Twitter users used to speak on the matter, and mostly to show their support for Crudo Ecuador. In less than five hours, it became the national trending topic.
“#YouWon as cowards do: sowing terror, chasing the weak, appropriating from external resources for personal vendettas.”
Correa, you will receive tomorrow the “flowers” that Crudo Ecuador received today, but coming directly from the people. #YouWon for now.”
“#YouWon to Crudo Ecuador (maybe), but apparently did not realize what you lost. The Mashi (Correa( is naked, though he does not know it.”
David Focil is another opponent of Correa on social media, still willing to speak out, and shared that “Its really a sad day for liberty here in Ecuador. It really hits close to home how they are intimidating people for speaking out.”
Edited by Fergus Hodgson.
EspañolOne prominent policy shared by successive Venezuelan administrations since 1999 — that of Hugo Chávez until 2013, and Nicolás Maduro since then — is their "microphone diplomacy" with which they have tried to bully other countries. Relations between Venezuela and Spain have been no exception. Ties between Madrid and Caracas have become tense, soured by incessant insults the two presidents have hurled across the ocean. The now-legendary phrase of King Juan Carlos I directed at the late Chávez — "Why don't you shut up?" — came during a 2007 summit in Chile, after the Venezuelan premier made insulting remarks about former Spanish president José María Aznar. The latest impasse between the two countries emerges after an unprecedented act. Maduro administration officials held a meeting with major Spanish companies operating in Venezuela, asking them to put pressure on their domestic press to tone down negative coverage of Venezuela's government and economic situation. Venezuela's Vice President Jorge Arreaza, Vice Minister for European Relations Calixto Ortega, and President of the Foreign Commerce Corporation Ramon Gordils met with representatives from firms Telefónica, Zara, Repsol, BBVA, Mapfre, Meliá, Iberia, and Air Europa. Spanish daily ABC broke the story, claiming that the Maduro administration threatened the companies with measures such as "immediate expropriation" if the alleged "media campaign" to discredit Venezuela didn't end. Put another way, the Chavistas openly blackmailed foreign companies as if they belonged to Venezuela, as if they ruled them with the same iron grip they do home-grown enterprises, expropriating at will. Unsurprisingly, the Spanish government reacted immediately. Upon receiving the news, José Manuel Soria, minister for industry, energy and tourism, said such a request was "absolutely unacceptable." He rejected Arreaza's "putting on the table issues that have nothing to do with the legitimate interests of firms operating in Venezuela." In a press conference, Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo confirmed that the meeting took place. He reminded the Maduro regime that "in a democratic and law-abiding state such as Spain, freedom of opinion and a free press are two un-renounceable principles," warning that the Spanish executive is "within its rights to protect its companies facing arbitrary decisions by another government." Venezuela's rebuttal was quick to follow. Instead of remaining silent or apologizing for the obvious abuse, Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez demanded respect for Venezuela, "a free, sovereign, and democratic republic." With every passing day, it's more and more evident that Maduro's government is at the brink of economic, political, and social collapse. Its desperate attempts to shut down domestic and foreign criticism are further proof, if any were needed, of the non-democratic nature of Chavista Venezuela. Another Spanish outlet, El Mundo, has recently released photos and footage proving that a convicted terrorist with Basque separatist organization ETA, José Ignacio De Juana Chaos, is hiding in open sight in Venezuela. This triggered the Audiencia Nacional to demand an Interpol investigation. The judicial request has predictably further stirred up resentment among the Venezuelan government, which up until now has ignored every extradition request for ETA militants hiding out in its territory. Diplomatic clashes between Venezuela and the former colonial power have a long pedigree, the latest clutch of skirmishes stretching back almost 15 years ago to the beginning of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution. Things got off to a bad start when former Spanish President José María Aznar expressed support for the brief presidency of businessman Pedro Carmona, who in April 2002 replaced Hugo Chávez for 48 hours. From that moment, neither Chávez nor Maduro held back from lashing out against Spain when it showed the slightest degree of support for any initiative coming from Venezuela's opposition, or anything deemed to be critical of the Bolivarian Revolution. Venezuela even took exception in October 2014, when current Spanish President Mariano Rajoy met with Lilian Tintori, the wife of political prisoner Leopoldo López, in his private office, not even in the presidential La Moncloa palace. Maduro slammed Rajoy as "irresponsible" and "disrespectful," and even demanded that the Venezuelan ambassador in Madrid seeks answers on the issue. "I have ordered a revision of all relations with Spain over Rajoy's unfriendly, interventionist act, which supports those far-right groups exerting violence in Venezuela," an angered Maduro announced. But amid the sound and fury, Venezuela's pronouncements and threats seldom amount to anything more than complaining, a tool used by the government to distract the public. The truth of the matter is that the "revolutionary" Chavista regime, in all these years of rabble-rousing against the mother country, has consistently ranked among Madrid's top three weapons purchasers, and has welcomed Spanish investment in multiple crucial sectors such as banking, telecommunications, and petroleum, with open arms. Translated by Daniel Duarte. Edited by Laurie Blair.