An international defamation lawsuit out of Ecuador has caught our attention.
In brief, the three-term (and counting) president of the country, Rafael Correa, recently filed a defamation suit. He won and the defendants are heading to jail for 18 months. Supporters of Correa say the case was justified and appropriate. Detractors argue that Correa is using his political power to silence critics via the justice system.
Why Did Correa File A Defamation Lawsuit Against A Political Opponent?
In 2010, a violent demonstration rocked Ecuador. If you believe the opposition, it was a justified, non-violent protest waged by government workers demanding fair pay. If you believe Correa enthusiasts, it was an “undemocratic coup d’etat”. In any event, the incident turned violent. Correa was held hostage at a police hospital, and ultimately five civilians died when soldiers rushed the facility to rescue the president.
In the aftermath, opposition leader Jose Clever Jimenez Cabrera (commonly known as Jimenez) publicly ridiculed the ruling party and Correa for “promoting political chaos” and “perpetuating crimes against humanity”.
As you might imagine, Correa did not take kindly to the accusations. So he filed a defamation lawsuit against Jimenez and two instrumental union leaders.
International Defamation Watchdog Group Chastises Correa
To make a long story short, Correa won his case, and since Ecuador still has criminal defamation laws on the books, the defendants were sentenced to 18 months. Additionally, Jimenez was ordered to pay the president $145,000 and make a public apology.
Upon hearing the ruling, international first amendment advocates, Human Rights Watch, issued an excoriation of the decision. Jose Miguel Vivanco, who is the Human Rights Watch America’s director, criticized, “President Correa has long made it clear that he willing to go after anyone who criticizes him, from civil leaders to media critics.”
A Defiant “Defamer”
Jimenez is refusing to comply with the public apology demand, and he insists he does have the money to pay the fine. We’ll see if his prison sentence is extended, as a result.
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