EL ESPECTADOR

Ecuador, How To Attack Democracy And Fly Below The Radar

Unlike Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa manages to keep his political crackdowns below the international radar.

Correa loving life
Correa loving life
Santiago Villa

-Op-Ed-

BOGOTA — Perhaps no case is more emblematic of the Ecuadoran government's particular brand of below-the-radar political repression than the jailing of Francisco Endara, a young man who had the gall five years ago of applauding during a protest against President Rafael Correa.

For that the judiciary convicted him last month of "terrorism." In Ecuador, it turns out, heckling or jeering at the president is a serious criminal offense. This is the kind of thing one might expect to find in a novel about the ruler of a banana republic, a caricature, it would seem, that Correa el Supremo isn't afraid to emulate.

The Ecuadoran president is vain and proud, but unlike his counterpart in Venezuela, Correa is no fool. His modus operandi for handling criticism is to be harsh enough to intimidate opponents but soft enough not to provoke an international outcry — repression lite — a trademark approach that is also highly efficient thanks to the complicity of courts, which Correa controls by appointing and dismissing judges with the same ease he does civil servants.

What's alarming here isn't just the perversion of democratic institutions, but also the huge power imbalance inherent in the president's ability and willingness to subject regular citizens to "juridical" persecutions. The case of Francisco Endara is both recent and exemplary.

Endara was sentenced Oct. 21 to an 18-month prison term for having clapped. He did that at a protest on Sept. 30, 2010, during a police strike in Quito, which the government characterized as an attempted coup.

Pardon for the Pope

A group of citizens had gathered outside the state television station ECTV to protest against the interruption of all private broadcasters, which were being forced at that moment to air only ECTV programs. In that way, the Correa administration created what was effectively a single national channel with which to repeatedly hammer home its version of events: that a coup was underway, police had kidnapped the president, and democracy was falling prey to a plot.

Some of the protesters smashed ECTV's glass doors. Francisco Endara was not one of them. With the building entrance now open, the crowd decided to take its protest into the premises. The young man sought to calm others down at this point, but did make the mistake of clapping while the crowd was denouncing the president.

The absurdity of the sentence speaks for itself. "It is necessary to point out in the case of Francisco Endara Raza that his presence does not correspond to that of an author or agitator, but of a pacifier. He did, however, take part in clapping at a particular moment," the text reads. "He thus publicly revealed his general agreement with the actions of that social group, for which reason his participation in the events fits the concept of complicity as an indirect and secondary collaborator."

The curious thing about these cases is that some of those convicted of terrorism and sabotage for entering ECTV were not arrested. Thanks to intervention by the Catholic Church, they were left free for almost a year, and given a presidential pardon on the occasion of Pope Francis' recent visit to Ecuador.

And so again, the repression went largely unnoticed by leading international rights bodies. Yet these young people suffered all the same. Legal proceedings made them prisoners in their countries, subjected them to enormous emotional pressure and forced them to spend all their savings on lawyers. They also live in fear that the state could still decide, when and if it sees fit, to jail them. Other government opponents will no doubt be extra careful, and the attention of the rest of the world will again be directed elsewhere.

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!

Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

​✅ SIGN UP

This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

It's easy (and free!) to sign up to receive it each day in your inbox: 👉 Sign up here

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Keep reading... Show less
Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ