Corruption, inefficiency and political influence have plagued the Ecuadorian judiciary for many years.
In a referendum held in 2011, President Rafael Correa obtained a mandate for constitutional reforms that would significantly increase government powers to constrain media and influence the appointment and dismissal of judges.
Ecuador's laws restrict freedom of expression, and government officials, including Correa, use these laws against critics. Those involved in protests marred by violence may be prosecuted on inflated 'terrorism' charges.
Police often attribute murders to a 'settling of accounts' between criminal gangs, with prosecutions and convictions rare.
In April 2010 a gang of hitmen composed of active-duty police was exposed. It was claimed that the officers involved were part of a 'social cleansing group' that killed delinquents in Quevedo, Los Rios Province.
The majority of child workers in the banana industry quit school before the age of 15 and are often forced to work gruelling hours for little pay. Some children work 12-hour shifts in …