THE principal rival of Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa in the 2012 presidential elections is not a political party, but the right-wing press. Despite the fact that the leader of Alianza PAIS has not as yet announced that he intends to run for another term, in recent months he has had to respond to a whole series of attacks from the national and foreign media, all wielding accusations against him of one kind or another in order to discredit him. One of the most systematic charges is that of restricting freedom of expression and utilizing the case of Wikileaks founder Australian Julian Assange to “clean up” his public image.
“Everything that we have seen in the last few days is the prelude to this electoral campaign which, given the collapse of ‘partidocracia’, of the political mafias which dominated this country, this corrupt press has now taken their place, and even represents them,” affirmed President Correa in a recent mass event, refuting the imputation circulated by various media that Alianza PAIS presented the highest number of false signatures to the National Electoral Council to secure its legal guarantee for taking part in the elections.
However, it is enough to review the development of the Citizens’ Revolution initiated in 2007 in order to expose this ridiculous idea. Alianza PAIS does not need to resort to fraud to continue representing the people. The results of a recent survey by the Perfiles de Opinión enterprise, revealing 81.7% support for Correa’s presidency, are more eloquent than the media’s use of multimillionaire sums to discredit him.
Followers of the yellow press from whatever political faction are also kicking up a storm in relation to the Ecuadoran government’s courageous decision to grant political asylum to Julian Assange.
One of the least surprising attacks came from the U.S. El Nuevo Herald a week after Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño announced the granting of asylum to the Wikileaks founder. Titled “The Correa-Assange Show,” the August 23 article was written by Andrés Oppenheimer, an Argentine journalist resident in the United States, described in 2003 by the French Le Monde newspaper as “someone who occupies a unique position in the Americas’ press, representing U.S. interests.”
Espousing the opinions of Emilio Palacio, a former columnist with El Universo, resident in Miami after being tried in Ecuador for slanderous allegations against the President, Oppenheimer states, “Correa’s campaign in favor of Assange is not only intended to repair his image as enemy number one of the freedom of the press in Ecuador, but is also part of his propagandistic offensive to win political spaces in the field of the Latin American radical left.”
However, the Alianza PAIS movement, which emerged from the popular sectors, has fertilized politics in a country in which the traditional left parties were worn down, lacked credibility and were sympathetic to neoliberalism. That is why the Citizens’ Revolution activated such alarm when it declared its historical objective as a broad-based social project. An aspiration which opens the way to an authentic radicalism within the region’s emancipation processes.
One of the most memorable achievements of the Rafael Correa government in this context was the creation of a public media, which did not exist in the country prior to 2007 – only private and community media – and the approval in 2008 of a new Constitution recognizing the right of citizens to information and communication.
If freedom of expression genuinely concerns this media in any way, they would have considered in their analysis the opinion of Assange himself who, in an interview published in the Andes agency on September 17, emphasized Correa’s determination to defend national sovereignty, and went on the comment:
“As opposed to many governments which wanted to repress our publications on the U.S. diplomatic cables, at the beginning of 2011 President Correa asked us to make public the largest possible number, even knowing that some were critical of his administration.”
Obviously, it is not in the interest of the press attacking Rafael Correa for Assange to establish himself in Ecuador and be liberated from (in)justice, nor that the Ecuadoran nation should continue promoting a Citizens’ Revolution.