July 21, 2008 [LINK / comment]

Authoritarian rule in Ecuador?

Ecuador's president Rafael Correa shows no signs of restraint in his drive to extend state control in order to remake the country in a socialist model. In recent weeks the government has been taking over television stations and other enterprises that might offer a dissenting point of view. Correa justifies these actions by claiming that the affected companies are "corrupt." In particular, William and Roberto Isaias, who reside in Florida, are accused of using their ownership of newspapers and television stations to subvert the judicial system, with mafia-like tactics. See Washington Post. There may be some merit to the charges but we should remember that it's the same justification Correa cited for replacing the duly-elected Congress with his own constituent assembly last October, on the grounds that the incumbent legislators were all corrupt. (Just throw out the whole system!) Senior journalists and analysts in Ecuador say that even during the military regime of the 1970s the government did not go so far in repressing the media and controlling political expression.

It is rather astounding how arrogant Correa has acted over the 18 months since his inauguration. The young (43) leader clearly seems intoxicated by power, and his recent actions amount to a brazen lurch toward the establishment of an authoritarian regime. Oddly, the resistance to this usurpation of freedom has been feeble thus far, in contrast to the situation in Venezuela and Bolivia, the other radical regimes in South America.