From the TUC

Not the President’s Men: Ecuador jailing critics for ‘libel’ of leader

20 Aug 2014, By

Ecuadorian Trade Unionists are being locked up for criticising their Government, as the International TUC is reporting.

While Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, is no stranger to controversy, he is showing a concerning unwillingness for those controversies to be aired in his own country. Correa has had some high-profile domestic adventures, not least an apparent coup attempt – denounced by the ITUC – in 2010 that saw the army called in to release him from a hospital where he had been detained for 12 hours by seriously disgruntled police. Now trade unionists who have questioned the use of force in that rescue, including Dr Carlos Figueroa, General Secretary of the Ecuadorian Medical Federation,  have been convicted of ‘libel’ and face serving up to 18 months for raising the kind of questions that should be discussed in a free society.

Figueroa and two colleagues had been convicted in 2013, but irregularities in the trial had led to “special precautionary measures” by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and a request that the conviction should be suspended until the IACHR had investigated whether due process had been followed. Despite the investigation being ongoing, Carlos is now in prison.

Correa, controversies aside, has had many successes, including pulling off the not unremarkable feat of dismissing $3.2bn of debt obligations in 2009, and yet persuading markets to handle $2bn of bonds put on sale this summer. Stronger Unions contributor Tony Burke notes on his own blog that Ecuador has a good track record of free education and health, as well as tackling poverty and inequality through a national Living Wage.

However, there are concerns that some of these gains continue to be made on the backs of workers who are having their basic rights denied and facing mass dismissals. The harassment of Dr Figueroa and his associates follows serious legislative assaults on trade union freedom, particularly the 2010 Public Services Law which prohibits the vast majority of public sector workers from joining unions and exercising collective bargaining rights.

The TUC has, as part of an ITUC action, written to the Ecuadorian government expressing our concerns about Dr Figueroa’s treatment and urging them respect his rights, and promising to join the ITUC in watching closely Ecuador’s future treatment of workers and their representatives.