Democracy's Demise in Latin America: Ecuador on Brink of a 'Perfect Dictatorship'

By Hurtado, Osvaldo | The Christian Science Monitor, May 4, 2011 | Go to article overview

Democracy's Demise in Latin America: Ecuador on Brink of a 'Perfect Dictatorship'


Hurtado, Osvaldo, The Christian Science Monitor


If voters approve Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa's proposals in the May 7 referendum vote, he will be allowed to designate judges and magistrates, and the remaining independent media will come under his authority. He will have established a 'perfect dictatorship' in Ecuador.

The 2010 Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, used the term "perfect dictatorship" to describe Mexico's political system under the absolute control of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) for most of the 20th Century. That term also fits the current governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia - and now Ecuador - like a glove.

Even though Ecuador's president Rafael Correa is the most powerful president that Ecuador has had since the early 20th Century, he is still determined to gain full control of the two institutions over which his sway is incomplete: the justice system and the media. For that purpose, he has called another plebiscite, the third during his term in office. If voters approve his proposals in the May 7 referendum vote, he will be allowed to designate judges and magistrates, and the remaining independent media will come under his authority.

If Mr. Correa's ballot questions are passed, he will have established a "perfect dictatorship" in Ecuador - disguised under the cloak of constitutional and popular legitimacy.

Democracy is disappearing in Latin America

Elements that are essential for a democratic regime have disappeared in many Latin American countries: checks and balances, an independent justice system, freedom of the press, alternating political power, accountability, and competitive elections.

Given these governments' violations of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the Organization of American States should sanction them or at least cite them for their antidemocratic conduct. However, the OAS organization and its member states have preferred to look the other way, just as the international community did for so long in the case of the abuses that occurred under dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.

The colorful personality of President Hugo Chavez, along with Venezuela's oil wealth, may explain the attention that country has received from the international press. That attention might also explain why little has been said about how democracy and liberty have been infringed on in Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.

In the case of my country, Ecuador, perhaps people thought that Correa would not emulate Mr. Chavez since he has a university education, including graduate studies in Belgium and the United States. However, during the four years of his administration, democratic institutions have been gradually diminished to the point of vanishing.

Correa's grab for absolute power

Correa refused to take the oath stipulated by the Constitution when he took office before the National Congress in early 2007.

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