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February 27 2014

February 21 2014

February 20 2014

February 14 2014

Ecuador Makes List of Countries Where Press Freedom Has Declined

Ecuador is the only Latin American country featured on the Committee to Project Journalists’ (CPJ) annual Risk List. CPJ explains:

The list is based on the expertise of CPJ staff, but also takes into account press freedom indicators such as journalist fatalities and imprisonments, restrictive legislation, state censorship, impunity in anti-press attacks, and journalists driven into exile. Those places on the Risk List are not the worst press freedom offenders, but rather spots where CPJ documented the most significant deterioration of the media climate during 2013.

Samantha Bagden from the Journalism the Americas Blog gives more context:

The Ecuadorian National Assembly approved the new law intended to regulate editorial content in June. The law gives authorities the right to impose arbitrary sanctions and censor the press and it’s enforced by a state watchdog loyal to President Rafael Correa.

[...]

In its report, CPJ quoted Monica Almeida, editor at Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo, saying that the atmosphere is much worse because of the law.

“Before, there was a level of control by the government … but they did not have this legal framework like the Communications Law which allows them to do many things in their favor.”

February 13 2014

Ecuador to Implement Charges for Private Copying Levy

Image from Shutterstock. Copyright: S_L

Image from Shutterstock. Copyright: S_L

UPDATE: Since the original publication of this article in Spanish, there have been no significant changes to the information reported, except that the list of products to be taxed by the Levy was publicized on Facebook [es] by the association Usuarios Digitales (Digital Users). 

[All links lead to Spanish language pages, unless otherwise noted.]

A proposal put forward by the Ecuadorian Institute of Intellectual Property (IEPI) would impose an additional tax of 4%-10% on the importation of all music and video players, such as cell phones, personal computers, and tablets, as well as storage devices (CDs, DVDs, etc).

Faced with rumors and varying opinions about the proposal, known as Compensated Remuneration for Private Copying (RCCP), or private copying levy, the IEPI released a statement on December 10th explaining that the proposed measure is not a tax and that it falls under the provision of the current Ecuadorian Intellectual Property Law. The statement emphasizes that the current law already establishes the RCCP in its articles 105 to 108, so the project they are working on has to do with the implementation of the RCCP, as well as the distribution of the compensation that is collected. The IEPI added:

Se desinforma cuando se afirma que existe un impuesto a descargas, o un cargo tributario dirigido al Servicio de Rentas Internas, al Servicio de Aduanas o directamente al IEPI por cada descarga que se realiza. Eso es falso y contiene una intencionalidad deliberada para confundir a los usuarios.

It is mistaken to claim that there exists a tax on downloads or a fiscal tax going to the Internal Revenue Service, Customs Service, or directly to the IEPI for each download that takes place. This is false and is intended to deliberately confuse users.

Roberto Aspiazu, executive director of the Ecuador Business Council and the Ecuadorian Telecommunications Association (ASETEL), is one of those who has made clear his rejection of the measure, saying that it is only a different name for a tax of 4% for cell phones and other devices.

In an interview with local media on the subject, Aspiazu criticized the contradictions of the Ecuadorian government: “We will end up with a 24% tax. Brazil, which produces electronics, has a 16% tax, but that is in order to protect its industry. We, who have no industry, are raising the tax to 24% and then claiming that we want public policy that facilitates access to mobile Internet.”

JJ Velasco, writing for ALT1040, compares this measure to similar laws in Mexico and Spain (the Sinde Law [en]), and explains that it is not a tool of dissuasion, but rather a collections process whose original model dates back to around 2007. This model assumes that everyone is pirating and therefore increases the cost of devices that can be used for such activity. Velasco continues:

En estos años el escenario ha cambiado mucho y la oferta de contenidos legales es enorme y sigue estando a buen precio. Spotify sigue su expansión por Latinoamérica (acaba de aterrizar en Chile y Colombia), Google ofrece música a través de Google Play, Apple también ofrece música a través de iTunes y, gracias a Netflix, también podemos encontrar películas y series en streaming legal; con tanta oferta multidispositivo ¿en serio van a imponer un canon a los dispositivos? El Gobierno defiende la medida porque supone una fuente de financiación para los artistas ecuatorianos pero, realmente, tiene un impacto directo sobre el usuario final.

In these years, the situation has changed significantly: the availability of legal content is enormous and continues to be affordable. Spotify is continuing its expansion in Latin America (it just made its debut in Chile and Colombia), Google offers music via Google Play, Apple also offers music through iTunes, and, thanks to Netflix, we can also legally stream movies and TV shows. With so many multi-device options, are they really going to impose a levy on these devices? The government defends the measure because it would be a source of funding for Ecuadorian artists but, in reality, it has a direct impact on the end-user.

On the blog Derecho en Bicicleta, the anonymous author lists several reasons that s/he believes justify his/her opposition to this project: first, it is unconstitutional, and second, it contradicts the concept of the social knowledge economy, which was defended by the President of Ecuador himself. Regarding the unconstitutionality of the project, the blogger argues that it violates Article 287 of the Ecuadorian constitution, explaining:

La remuneración por copia privada es una tasa creada en una ley de 1998, que establece la obligación de que un particular (el importador o fabricante) pague a otro particular (la sociedad recaudadora creada por los artistas) por algo que no han acordado mutuamente: es una imposición. Puede comprenderse que el Estado imponga la obligación de pagar impuestos, pero es irracional que una ley obligue a un privado pagar un valor a otro privado, sin que haya mutuo consentimiento. Por esto es clave enfatizar que quien recibe el canon digital no es una entidad pública: no es el Estado, es un particular. Es esto lo que lo hace (a mi juicio) inconstitucional.

The private copying levy is a tax created in a law from 1998, which establishes the obligation of one party (the importer or manufacturer) to pay another party (the collections society created by the artists) for something that has not been mutually agreed upon: it is an imposition. It is feasible for the State to impose an obligation to pay taxes, but it is irrational for a law to require a private entity to pay a given amount to another private entity without mutual consent. For this reason, it is important to emphasize that the recipient of the private copying levy is not a public entity: it is not the State, but a private entity. This is what makes the levy, in my opinion, unconstitutional.

Various discussions on the topic can be found on Twitter under the tags: #Impuestospordescargas (Taxes on downloads), #pagoSINreproducir (I pay WITHOUT copying), and #noalcanon (no to the levy). Below are several highlights from the Twitter debate.

Efrén Guerrero speaks out against benefiting a dubious group of Ecuadorian artists: 

Everyone should earn their living through their work. Not by being compensated for not being able to compete in the market.

Diego Cevallos put together a Storify with tweets on the subject: 

Levy for “Compensated Remuneration for Private Copying”

Carlos Correa of Creative Commons Ecuador shares a video conference with Santiago Cevallos, the National Director of Copyright and Derivative Rights of the IEPI:

video conference with Santiago Cevallos of IEPI.

Mauricio Becerra argues that the anti-pirating measures should be focused elsewhere: 

They're inventing this to avoid dealing with who knows who… they're so afraid of going up against the real pirates.

Finally, Guillermex of the blog The Wild Children suggests that we should keep in mind the old saying “Innocent until proven guilty,” and then reflects:

Mientras el resto del mundo se vuelve loco por compartir y poner la música disponible y al alcance de todos; mientras en otras regiones, los computadores, laptops, tablets y todo aparato tecnológico se liberan de aranceles; mientras en todo el planeta tierra, los artistas suben a internet su material para que sea escuchado grateche; aquí, en el país de la revolución, hacemos todo mal y todo al revés.

While the rest of the world goes crazy sharing and making music available and accessible to everyone; while in other regions, computers, laptops, tablets, and all sorts of technology become free from taxes; while all over planet Earth artists are uploading their material to the internet to be listened to for free; here, in the country of the revolution, we are doing everything wrong and backwards.

For the time being, the result of this proposal is that internet users are putting forward a comprehensive discussion about the copyright model and casting doubt upon the government's proposal regarding digital media and the society of knowledge. Let's wait and see how the discussion develops.

January 29 2014

Ecuador's Indigenous People: “We believe in development that respects Mother Earth”

“The Government is appropriating our spiritual values of the Amazon region, it’s seeking to deconceptualize our cultural concepts”, says [Carlos Pérez, President of ECUARUNARI (Confederation of Kichwa Peoples of Ecuador)]. “It doesn’t know what Pachamama is. It doesn’t understand the rights of nature. It doesn’t understand Sumak Kawsay (good living), it doesn’t understand the right to water.”

In Intercontinental Cry journalist Robin Llewellyn writes about repression and indigenous rights under President Rafael Correa.

January 01 2014

Ecuadorian Authorities Raid Dissident Lawyer's Home

[All links lead to Spanish language web pages, except when otherwise noted.]

On the morning of December 26, 2013, members of Ecuador’s elite police force (GIR) raided the home of Fernando Villavicencio after a court order from the Attorney General.

Villavicencio is a legal adviser to Clever Jiménez, an assembly member from the Pachakutik [en] party. Earlier in 2013, Jiménez and the activist, Carlos Figueroa, they were sentenced to 18 months in prison for slander against the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa. In 2011, the three men accused the head of state of having allegedly ordered the armed attack at the Hospital de la Policía (Police Hospital) during the September 2010 [en] uprising [en].

The operation at the home of Villavicencio -carried out under a court order by National Court judge Jorge Blum- lasted until 3:00 a.m. The district attorney’s office had been looking for information held on personal computers and cellphones, which were confiscated as part of an investigation into suspected espionage in relation to emails sent by high ranking government officials.

The investigation also involves the assembly member Clever Jiménez, whose office at the National Assembly was also raided. Jiménez had publicly admitted to possessing numerous emails from both the President and the Vice President, Jorge Glas, in relation to the Chevron case [en].

Social media has been inundated with reactions to the incident, including that of Alfredo Velazco (@alfredovelazco) who tweeted and commented on Facebook about the contradictions and double standards in the country:

#Ecuador gives asylum to #Assange for publishing emails by officials from #EEUU (USA) but raids home of #Villavicencio… http://t.co/MTpzhXj6al

Verónica Potes ‏(@veropotes) stressed that justice was not a game:

You don’t mess with due process, @Galo_Chiriboga @ppsesa, you should know this having once been lawyers #Villavicencio

The film maker Carlos Andrés Vera (@Polificcion) considered the incident an abuse of power which will most likely be covered up by a media campaign against Villavicencio:

11.- All of this constitutes yet another abuse by the state which will be covered up with a vile campaign against Villavicencio in the mainstream media.

Diana Amores Moreno (@Diana_Amores) tweeted an ironic comment about the National Secretary for Communication (SECOM) regarding the raid:

Good morning Revolution of televisual lobotomies! Has SECOM already told what to think about the attack on #Villavicencio? Excellent!

Plan V, a website dedicated to producing its own reports alongside contributions from established journalists from the Ecuadorian press, published the article “Cuando el terror llama a tu puerta…” (When terror knocks at your door…”). The article speaks about the experiences of Fernando Villavicencio, his wife Verónica and his two young children and has been shared on numerous social networks.

Pablo Jaramillo Viteri published the following photo on his Twitter account:

Ten armed GIR officers have raided the home of Fernando Villavicencio, acting on orders from national judge Jorge Blum.

The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, posted on his Facebook account and on Twitter (@MashiRafael) that there was a recording of the raid and that it would be made public in due course:

A few months ago, he hacked into accounts belonging to the President and other high ranking officials. Investigations were filed against Cléver Jiménez and his “adviser”, Fernando…

…Villavicencio. The raids were carried out under court order. Surprising discoveries. We have it all filmed, so playing the…

…victim as they tend to will not help them. Very serious things have been found. At the right time and in accordance with…

…due process the country will know all about it. It's terrible what these guys have been up to!

December 30 2013

Art in the Trolley – Invading Public Spaces in Quito

El juego de lo imprevisto. Proyecto seleccionado de Arte en el Trole.

The game of the unexpected. Selected project in Art in the Trolley.

The time spent moving from one place to another in a large city tends to take up lost time, so much so that some consider the interconnected systems’ train cars or buses as non-places, much like the stations that make up the systems. But in Quito, Ecuador, Arte en el Trole (Art in the Trolley) [es] decided to bring a bit of art and culture to these civic spaces, which in Quito are represented by the Trolleybus or integrated bus transportation system. 

Art in the Trolley began in 2006 and according [es] to their own words: 

es un proyecto independiente que desde la práctica, ha posibilitado la democratización de la cultura a través del arte y sus diversas formas de expresión llevando propuestas de artistas locales, nacionales y extranjeros a presentar sus obras en nuevos espacios, beneficiando de forma directa a quienes lo habitan y que se encotraban excluidos de la riqueza cultural y artisticas que se desarrolla en el Ecuador y el mundo.

It is an independent project that, since its practice, has enabled the democratization of culture through art and its diverse forms of expressions, taking proposals from local, national, and foreign artists to present their works in new spaces, directly benefiting those who live here and find themselves excluded from the artistic and culture richness that is developing in Ecuador and the world.

In May of this year, I had the opportunity to visit them and speak with Daniel Pazmiño, who was kind enough to tell us about the history and activities of Art in the Trolley.


Art in the Trolley's objective, again in their own words, is “to establish a platform that spreads art and culture within the reach of those who live in the city. The artistic interventions carried out in the stations are proposals from multiple artists, creators, managers, leaders, organizations, etc., where they demonstrate mastery of the art that they practice, as the characteristics of the system requires it (the trolley mobilizes over 250,000 people per day)”. 

In the following video, Daniel tells us about some of the speeches and performances carried out by the organization in the Trolleybuses or their stations: 


Currently, Art in the Trolley has expanded [es] its activities beyond the Trolleybus system and “works in conjunction with students and representatives from high schools, universities, neighborhoods, etc., thereby promoting and strengthening the creation, production, spreading, and circulation of cultural property and allowing for the construction of superb spaces for an intercultural dialogue that aims to strengthen an inclusive cultural policy.” 

In the last video with Daniel, he talks to us about the democratization of public spaces in Quito via the Art in the Trolley project. 


To get an idea of Art in the Trolley's activities and involvement, we are sharing two videos below. The first is a collection of photos of the organization's main activities in 2013: 


The second video is entitled “Dream raid on the Trolleybus” and was recorded live in one of the Quito trolleybus cars during one of Art in the Trolley's artistic interventions.


Before concluding, it is worth remembering what Daniel mentioned — that Art in the Trolley's call for artistic and cultural projects is open and ongoing, so groups in Latin America now know. You can see more videos from Art in the Trolley [es] on their YouTube [es] channel and by following them on Facebook [es] and Twitter [es].

December 06 2013

Ecuadorian Government Shuts Down Environmental NGO Pachamama

The Ecuadorian government ordered the closure and “dissolution” of the NGO Fundación Pachamama [es], dedicated to the defense of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest and opposed to oil exploitation without prior consultation in the region. The government alleged that the organisation was “affecting the public peace”.

The action, ordered by the Ministry of the Environment and carried out through the Ministry of the Interior and the Police on the 4th of December, 2013, is based [es] on the allegation that the Foundation has fallen into “deviation from its statutory purpose and objectives; and for interference in public policy, threatening the internal security of the State and affecting the public peace”, according to a note [es] published on the Ministry's website. Furthermore, the Ministry published via Twitter the Ministerial Accord 125 [es] where the reasons for the closure are explained (See 1, 2, 3 and 4) [es]:

Ministerial Accord No. 123 dissolves the NGO Foundation Pachamama

These justifications allude to the recent indigenous protests [es] carried out in the context of the XI Ronda Petrolera [es] (XI Oil Round), an activity where the government put out a tender for 13 blocks of hydrocarbon exploitation in the Southeastern part of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest.

During these protests some foreign representatives were the target of mockery and insults by the protesters. In response President Rafael Correa drew attention to the Police for not taking the necessary measures on his TV show on Saturday, and offered a public apology [es] to those foreign workers and representatives who were attacked.

Yasunidos [es], another environmental defense group, in this case focused on the Yasuní National Park, was one of the first to draw attention to what was happening:

Urgent! Right now Police are arriving at Fundación Pachamama. We reject any retaliation against those of us who fight for Yasuni

The Minister of the Interior himself published photos of the closure of Fundación Pachamama:

Alert: right now an operation to dissolve NGOs linked to recent attacks

Fundación Pachamama's staff immediately organised a protest action, as seen in these photos:

Fundación Pachamama's staff gagged by the closure of their organisation a few moments ago

Belén Páez (F. Pachamama) “They are closing us down for denouncing violations of indigenous human rights: Taromenane, 11 oil round”

Some Ecuadorian internet users expressed their approval of the measure:

Finally this corrupt NGO is disappearing well done [President] Correa hahaha

But others expressed their anger and disagreement on Twitter:

[The Minister of Interior] is just following orders from [President Correa]. I remind you how on Saturday he expressed his anger with [Fundación Pachamama]

The dissolution of Fundacion Pachamama is a confirmation of authoritarianism, what an outrage!

They closed down Pachamama with an urgent summary trial? Was there prior notification and a right to defense? Are we in a State governed by the rule of law or not?

Closing down an opposition organisation under the excuse of Ecuador's national security brings back memories of Latin America's horrific past

Also protest actions were starting to be organised against the government measure:

URGENT: Vigil in rejection of the dissolution of [Fundación Pachamama] and in rejection of Decree 16. 5pm, Plaza San Francisco

STATEMENT http://t.co/E8Dq11BZ96 We are calling a press conference, this Thursday 5/12 11am in Alejandro de Valdez N24 33 and Av. La Gasca

Fundación Pachamama's statement following the closure classifies it as arbitrary and indicates that they neither support nor participate in any acts of violence, distancing themselves from the acts they are accused of. The statement also announced that they will contest the decision and added:

No permitiremos que la agresión de que somos víctima, desvíe la atención y el debate del tema de fondo que es la violación de los derechos colectivos de los pueblos indígenas amazónicos y de los derechos de la Naturaleza, por una ronda petrolera realizada contra la voluntad de los legítimos propietarios de los territorios afectados, a través de una “socialización”, no una consulta.

We will not allow this aggression that we are victims of to draw attention and debate away from the issue at hand which is the violation of the collective rights of Amazonian indigenous people and the rights of Nature, due to a round of oil tenders conducted against the will of the legitimate owners of the affected territories, through a “socialisation”, not a consultation.

The Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organisations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA), also released a statement [es] condemning the events:

Rechazamos esta decisión intempestiva del gobierno nacional y exigimos se garantice el derecho a la legítima defensa de la Fundación Pachamama. Exhortamos a todas las organizaciones nacionales e internacionales que trabajan por los derechos humanos, colectivos y de la naturaleza, se pronuncien ante este acto represivo. Todo nuestro apoyo a Fundación Pachamama.

We reject this untimely decision by the national government and demand that Fundación Pachamama's right to a legitimate defense be guaranteed. We urge all national and international organisations working for human rights, collective rights and nature's rights to speak out against this repressive act. We offer all our support to Fundación Pachamama.

Fundación Pachamama conducted a press conference together with other environmental organisations at 11am on December 5th:

Fundación Pachamama is more than just a physical office! We will keep moving forward. TODAY press conference, 11am, Alejandro de Valdez N24 33 and Av. La Gasca

A press conference is beginning on the closure of [Fundación Pachamama] that was carried out yesterday

“They are closing us down because we denounce the fact that uncontacted peoples are also in block 79 which is being put to tender in the oil round”

“Due process has been violated not only for judicial processes but also administrative processes. Pachamama should have been informed” Dr Trujillo

Demand popular consultation, it is not a crime for the people to to speak out for Yasuni! Limiting participation is violence

After the press conference the Foundation shared a petition on Avaaz [es] to demand that their “freedom of association and expression” be protected:

Help us to revoke the closure of our organisation with your signature!

 

November 22 2013

10 Years After Fatal Police Operation, Ecuadorian Court Reopens the ‘Fybeca Case’

Ten years after a police operation in a Guayaquil pharmacy left three missing and eight dead – two civilians and six suspected assailants – the case remains unsolved.

On the morning of November 19, 2003, suspected assailants and police agents forming part of the Grupo Especial Antidelincuencial group (a grupo [es] operating outside of the law which was dismantled after the incident) clashed at a branch of the pharmacy Fybeca. Pistols, machine guns and even grenades were found at the scene.

Student Fernando Monro (@FernandoMONRO) shared a photo which was published throughout the country's media channels following the incident.

This is what the Fybeca pharmacy looked like ten years ago [Fybeca Case]

In December of 2003, a police court trial began against the 20 police officers who participated in the operation. On April 27, 2004, the officers were declared innocent due to lack of evidence and the trial brought to a close.

Almost eight years later on January 17, 2012 [es], the Comisión de la Verdad y Derechos Humanos de la Ficalía [es] [Commission of Truth and Human Rights Watch of the Attorney General] reopened investigations into that morning's events. Seventy testimonies were gathered during the inquiries of people present at the incident, including victims’ family members, witnesses, employees and police officers.

On November 14, 2013, the Attorney General Galo Chiriboga appeared [es] before the National Court of Justice to file charges against 31 people [es] for the presumed crime of extrajudicial execution, carrying a sentence of 16-25 years prison. El Universo [es] reports that police officers and “three lawyers who in 2003 were judges in the police court. One of whom currently performs duties as district attorney,” are among the 31 accused.

[Fybeca Case]The District Attorney's Office will file charges for the serious presumed violation of human rights demonstrated by an extrajudicial execution.

Jorge Blum, a National Court of Justice judge, accepted the request [es] made by district attorney Galo Chiriboga and remanded [es] 20 of the 31 accused in custody.

Meanwhile, in Twitter there are many messages of support for victims and their families as well as several displays of happiness that the case now seems to be advancing. However, many stress that the process has been slow and that there is still a lot of ground to be covered.

Eduardo Delgado (@eddepi) tweeted:

Fybeca Case: it goes to show that in this country the law is now being applied, no more impunity nor abuse from the authorities…

On the other hand, Segundo Veloz (@Veloz2002) wrote, outraged:

They want to block out the sun with a finger [A Spanish expression similar to "put out a fire with a thimble of water"]. The Fybeca Case was always a true investigative disgrace, and the worst is that the guilty are never anywhere to be seen.

Vivian Assange (@VivianAssange) emphasised:

10 years have passed since one of the worst forced disappearance cases in Ecuador! 10 years since the Fybeca Case – we don't want to return to that country!

CarlosLucio (@CarlosFLucioR), for his part, wrote a message of solidarity:

Today marks 10 years since the cold-blooded massacre in the Fybeca de la Alborada [referring to its address]. God keep the innocent who died in his Glory.

In the same way, Rodolfo de la Roca [es] wrote a message of support for the widows on his Facebook status [es].

Es una pena lo sucedido con el CASO FYBECA esta clarito lo que paso allí … tuve la oportunidad de conocer a una de las viudas. Es una de las tantas perlas de nuestra policía.

It's a shame what happened with the FYBECA CASE, it's all too clear what happened there…I had the opportunity to meet one of the widows. This is one of the many charming factors of our police force.

The families of the victims of the Fybeca pharmacy incident have fought for years to clarify the facts of the case. In fact, as they share the same first name, three of the widows are known as “the three Dolores,” [a nickname with the added element that, in Spanish, "dolor" means aches or pains]. Dolores Briones’ husband was the pharmacy's courier and died that day alongside Dolores Vélez's husband, who was in the store shopping for diapers. Dolores Guerra's husband is one of three people missing after being detained by the police.

“The three Dolores” have made a formal complaint to the Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos [Inter-American Commission on Human Rights] and demonstrate each year [es] outside the pharmacy, calling for justice.

Ten years after the incident, thanks to the Attorney General's request, “the three Dolores” again have hope to continue fighting for the state to respond to the events of that day.

November 19 2013

Ecuador: “The indigenous movement will continue”

“The government may continue its attempt to render us invisible, but our struggle cannot be defeated. As long as there is injustice, as long as the profound inequalities between the urban and the rural remain, the indigenous movement will continue.”

Manuela Picq spoke with Carlos Pérez Guartambel, the current leader of Ecuarunari [es] (Confederation of the Kichwa of Ecuador), at an event co-sponsored by NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) and CLACS (Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University). NACLA has published a transcript of the conversation.

Ecuadorean Activists Say No to Cybercafe Surveillance

Cybercafe, Ecuador. Photo by Romsrini via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Cybercafe, Ecuador. Photo by Romsrini via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Links are to Spanish-language pages unless otherwise noted.

Do you use cybercafés to communicate with your family and friends, or for work or school? If you do and you find yourself in Ecuador, under a proposed amendment to the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code (Código Orgánico Integral Penal or COIP), you may be captured on video while doing so. This new provision, along with new requirements for ISP data collection, has unleashed controversy across the Ecuadorian blogosphere. Its outcome could determine the fate of open Internet access in the country.

The proposed law is part of a growing trend among governments around the world to restrict the privacy of Internet users and the free exchange of information, first with anti-piracy laws and then with laws to fight cybercrime—measures that free speech activists fear are actually designed to increase surveillance of citizens by their governments. Examples of this trend are popping up in many countries in Latin America.

On a surprising note, similar processes have been used to pass this kind of law in two neighboring Latin American countries of Peru and Ecuador. In both cases, cybercrime-related bills included articles that had not been discussed previously by members of the national congress or assembly, as is the custom. In Peru the law has actually been promulgated, while in Ecuador the executive branch has yet to rule on it.

It is in this climate of anticipation that a few important steps have been taken in the tug-of-war over whether to approve or reject the bill. The bone of contention is article 474 of COIP, which mandates that all ISPs store user data (telephone numbers, IP addresses, etc.) and that cybercafé owners install video surveillance cameras to record customers using their services.

According to Alfredo Velazco of the Usuarios Digitales (Digital Users) association, the provision set out in article 474 appears to have originated in Ecuador's criminal investigations department, which also showed an interest in reducing anonymity on the Internet. In an article for the website Gkillcity, Velazco indicated that one of the problems is assembly members’ limited knowledge of digital culture:

Legisladores de excelente sueldo, que cuentan con asesores que ganan miles y comités de expertos, pero que ignoran ciertos temas digitales. El problema no es ignorar, pero son “ignorantes digitales” por ignorar voces e iniciativas dispuestas a brindar apoyo por ciudadanos desde la red. Los asambleístas deben legislar en función de garantizar los derechos de los ciudadanos también en plataformas digitales y, en este caso particular, de más 10 millones de usuarios ecuatorianos conectados.

Legislators with generous salaries, who have advisors earning thousands and committees of experts, but who ignore certain digital issues. The problem is not ignorance itself, but that they are “digitally ignorant” because they disregard voices and initiatives aimed at providing support to citizens through the Internet. Members of the Assembly should legislate to guarantee the rights of citizens on digital platforms as well, and in this particular case, that means the more than 10 million users connected in Ecuador.

As US-based digital rights group Access points out [en], one of the consequences of the legislation could be an increase in the cost of Internet access, thereby widening the digital divide for communities with limited resources and subjecting the poor to greater surveillance:

In addition to the deep human rights concerns, Article 474 also poses significant economic costs. Many of Ecuador’s internet users connect through cyber cafes, often small businesses in the room of a private home. Section 2 of the Article provides that those suppliers and distributors of information also must record the user identification, date and time of connection, as well as record their activities on video, again, for a minimum of six months.

The high costs of this provision — from purchasing video recording equipment to storing all user data for at least six months — may prove to be prohibitively expensive for many of these cybercafes, forcing them to go out of business. This would certainly diminish Ecuador's already low Internet penetration rate of 27.2%.

Además de las profundas preocupaciones de derechos humanos, el artículo 474 también representa costos económicos significativos. Muchos de los usuarios de Internet en el Ecuador se conectan a través de cibercafés, a menudo pequeños negocios en una habitación de una casa particular. La sección 2 de este artículo dispone que los proveedores y distribuidores de información también deben registrar la identificación del usuario, fecha y hora de conexión, así como grabar sus actividades en vídeo, una vez más, por un mínimo de seis meses.

Los altos costos de esta disposición – desde la compra de equipos de vídeo de grabación para almacenar todos los datos de usuarios de al menos seis meses – puede llegar a ser costosamente prohibitivo para muchos de estos cibercafés, lo que les obligaría a cerrar. Sin duda, esto disminuiría la ya baja tasa de penetración de Internet en Ecuador, del 27,2%.

Civil society organizations such as Usuarios Digitales, Apertura Radical and Asociación de Software Libre del Ecuador have adopted various strategies with citizens and state institutions, principally the National Assembly, to try to exert pressure on the executive to get it to veto article 474 of COIP. The upshot of this has been the creation of a large coalition called #InternetLibre, rallying other organizations at the national level in a concerted effort to defend the digital rights of citizens on several fronts.

In fact, members of the Assembly from different groups welcomed representatives of #InternetLibre and listened to their points of view and proposals regarding article 474 of COIP and others in the bill. It is worth mentioning that some members of the Assembly favour eliminating the article and others only support amendments to it.

On November 5, #InternetLibre also held a meeting with representatives of different coalitions and Internet freedom activists. The meeting garnered substantial tweets in the Ecuadorian cybersphere under the hashtag #InternetLibre. Journalist Bethany Horne summarized it for Alt1040:

Ayer 5 de noviembre, usando el hashtag #InternetLibre, más de cuarenta personas reunidas en Quito hablaron de las posibles consecuencias de un artículo incluido en el nuevo Código Integral Penal, aprobado hace poco por la Asamblea Nacional que va pronto a consideración final por el Presidente de la República, Rafael Correa. Entre los asistentes estuvieron miembros de la Asociación de Software Libre de Ecuador, el gremio de software AESOFT, la empresa Thoughtworks, docentes de varias universidades, abogados y los emprendedores de ECStartups.

Yesterday on November 5, using the hashtag #InternetLibre, more than 40 people gathered in Quito to discuss the potential consequences of an article included in the new Comprehensive Criminal Code, recently approved by the National Assembly and soon to be submitted for consideration to the President, Rafael Correa. Among the attendees were members of the Asociación de Software Libre de Ecuador, the AESOFT software guild, Thoughtworks, and the faculty of several universities as well as lawyers and entrepreneurs from ECStartups.

Some of the opinions expressed on Twitter that day were:

There is little awareness that article 474 of #COIP will bring a level of absolute surveillance to our society #Ecuador #InternetLibre
— Valeria Betancourt (@valeriabet) November 5, 2013

Let's do some activism! Find out more about COIP, stay on top of it and talk about how this is going to affect us on a daily basis #internetlibre
— Jesica Madrid (@jesicamadrid) November 5, 2013

Possible consequence of #COIP: to avoid having to store more ISP data, mobile service providers might even limit GB for navigation #InternetLibre
— Daniela Peralvo (@danielaperalvo) November 5, 2013

Meeting with President and advisers has more weight than delivering a letter
http://t.co/XLjwmXDGAj #InternetLibre #COIP
— Usuarios Digitales (@usuariosdigital) November 5, 2013

To conclude this post, we decided to talk briefly to Alfredo Velazco, activist and member of the association Usuarios Digitales, about what the next moves by #InternetLibre will be and what expectations there are about amending or eliminating article 474. This was his answer:

Basicamente hacer lobby entre los profesionales del sector que sean citados por entes estatales, ya que no han hecho llamamiento o acercamiento a la sociedad civil vía #InternetLibre, pese incluso a que les hemos escrito para dialogar. Adicionalmente tambien contacto con el Presidente, quien en ultima instancia tiene opcion a vetar ciertos articulos del Codigo Penal. Continuar con la campaña hasta tener un compromiso de las autoridades encargadas. Nuestra expectativa es la eliminación del artículo, no su modificación.

Basically to lobby professionals in the field who are mentioned by state bodies, who have not called on or approached civil society via #InternetLibre, despite our having written to them to begin a dialogue. In addition, contact with the President, who ultimately has a veto option over certain articles of the criminal code. To continue the campaign until we have a commitment from the appropriate authorities. We want the article eliminated, not modified.

Post originally published on the blog Globalizado by Juan Arellano.

 

November 14 2013

PHOTOS: Humans of Latin America

“She laughed, laughed and laughed while she waited for inter-provincial transportation. Tiraque, Cochabamba”.
Photo by Mijhail Calle for Humans of Bolivia, used with permission.

Inspired by photographer Brandon Stanton's blog Humans of New York (HONY), professional and amateur photographers across the world have created blogs and Facebook pages where they collect images and stories of people from all walks of life –and Latin America has not been an exception.

Stanton's idea has inspired Latin American photographers who want to showcase their country or city through portraits of its diverse people.

This is a brief overview of some of the “Humans of…” projects in the region.

Humans of Buenos Aires

“Come and visit me whenever you want. I'm sorry I can't offer you mate [local beverage] but I have no place to heat up water.” Photo by Jimena Mizrahi, used with permission.

Freelance photographer Jimena Mizrahi started Humans of Buenos Aires in May 2012, and her Facebook page has attracted over 11,000 likes.

Her project also caught the attention of a city official, which resulted in the first Humans of Buenos Aires exhibition. The Argentina Independent reports that “the exhibition ‘Micro historias del Microcentro’ featured displays of portraits of individuals who live or work in the city’s central business district”.

Jimena told The Argentina Independent that she does Humans of Buenos Aires “not only because I simply love interacting with people, but because each of these interactions is a lesson. Every person is a world.”

“-I can't believe it! A woman cab driver!
-Of course, do you think that women can't be taxi drivers? It's time to stop being surprised when women do things that aren't common for their gender, there aren't things for men or women.”
Photo by Jimena Mizrahi, used with permission.

Humans of Colombia and Humans of Bogotá

“A Wayuu girl, daughter of a restaurant owner in Uribia.”
Photo by Gábor Szentpétery, used with permission.

Humans of Colombia was created by designer Maurent Roa and architect Gábor Szentpétery. During their travels the couple met Mauricio Romero, who has joined the project and contributed some photographs. While traveling, they also noticed that many people didn't know much about Colombia or had a negative perception of the country; with this project they aim to show a different side of Colombia.

“The idea is to represent Colombia through its people because ethnic diversity in Colombia is incredible. It is a mixture of Amerindians, Spanish and African descendants, and that's what we want to show the world,” Maurent explains.

“Carmen Lorena grew up on a coffee plantation estate about three hours from Bogotá, but she thinks the city life is not for her, she prefers the countryside where she will stay after finishing her studies.”
Photo by Mauricio Romero, used with permission.

“What is your perception of love, and your favorite way to love?”
-”I think that love is everything, it makes up everything that surrounds us and I'd say that my favorite way to love is…breathing”.
Photo by John Cardona, used with permission.

For more photos from Colombia, you can also visit Humans of Bogotá, a page created in August 2013 by John Cardona and Jonathan Arévalo.

John and Jonathan are motivated by the response they've received, and by the chance to meet new people and hear stories that they can show the world through their page. They say that this movement “shows how we can all identify with someone, no matter how far they live.”

“One wish?
-Safety in all of Bogotá.
-Equality
-Tranquillity and peace”
Photo by John Cardona, used with permission.

Humans of Bolivia

“In Sipe Sipe – Cochabamba, the man said ‘take this abroad'. Then he began playing his charango.”
Photo by Mijhail Calle, used with permission.

Created on November 3, 2013, Humans of Bolivia is one of the newest Facebook pages to mirror Humans of New York in the region. Estelí Puente and Mijhail Calle want to create the same empathy they saw in the New York project and similar projects like Humans of Amsterdam, “the feeling that humanity is formed by individuals with their own stories.”

Although Mijhail takes most of the photographs, they are reaching out to other photographers who can share images from different parts of Bolivia. “This dynamic is also allowing us to create a space to share and discuss the role of the image and photography in the construction of our identities, so for now it looks like this will be more than a series of portraits. We want it to be a reason to reflect about ourselves,” Estelí explains.

“There are not many amauta women, it's hard to be one, but I am. Now I'm part of the union”.
Photo by Mijhail Calle, used with permission.

Humans of Honduras

“My biggest desire is for politicians to turn a blind eye to the colors of their parties, and for their focus to be solely on the betterment and unity of their country. This is the only way in which Honduras will be able to move forward.”
Photo by Claudia, used with permission.

Claudia Elvir and Daniela Mejía “invite you to get to know Honduras through its people” on their Facebook page Humans of Honduras.

Claudia started following Stanton's blog and was impressed by how he not only “captured impressive photographs, but also used them to capture the humanity behind each portrait, and how each photograph told a story that resonated in the hearts of the readers.”

Her friend Daniela conducts the interviews. Claudia and Daniela want to change the violent and negative image that the world has about Honduras, and they also want to change the way Hondurans see their own country.

Through their photographs and interviews, Claudia and Daniela hope to show that Honduras is a country “full of hard-working people, people with dreams, ambitions, joys and sorrows just like in every corner of the world.”

“I asked him to smile and very amiably he said, ‘I would like to, but in this job you have to be serious.’ and with that he demonstrated how appearances are deceiving.”
Photo by Claudia, used with permission.

Humans of Guatemala

“Slow but steady! Yes, it´s a long way to go, but I will make it.”
Photo by Elmer Alvarez, used with permission.

Elmer Alvarez had already been taking photographs of people around Guatemala before starting the Facebook page Humans of Guatemala in September 2013. Wendy Del Aguila, who now writes the captions, told Elmer about Humans of New York and he felt motivated to start a similar page about Guatemala.

Elmer and Wendy seek to capture “spontaneous moments of these extraordinary people reflecting their smile, passion, curiosity, hard work, shyness, kindness and most important their uniqueness!”

La Teacher-

La Teacher-”Let Your Smile Change The World”
Photo by Elmer Alvarez, used with permission

More “Humans of…” projects

“Every morning Don Pedro has opened his taqueria in this small village for two years. He has the usual clients and he gives out free tacos to all the minibus drivers who stop their minibus near his stand. “
Photo by Humans of Mexico, used with permission

The image above comes from Humans of Mexico, a page created in March 2010. Also from Mexico, Humans of Mexico City seeks to create a “photographic census of Mexico City. One street portrait at a time.”

Humans of Costa Rica, a page created in July of 2013, has more than 1,700 likes.

In Brazil, the Humans of Rio de Janeiro Facebook page is one of the most active in the region, and has over 9,000 likes.

Some Facebook pages -like Humans of Nicaragua, Humans of Panama, and Humans of Santiago, Chile- ask users to contribute photographs to the project. Others -like Humans of Quito, Humans of Lima, Humans of Peru, and Humans of Asunción- have been created less than a month ago.

Have we missed any “Humans of…” projects from South or Central America? Let us know in the comments!

November 06 2013

Ecuador: #Ruraleando, a Blog That Humanizes Medicine

[All links lead to Spanish language pages, except when otherwise noted]

In a corner of Ecuador in Patután, Cotopaxi [en], the people are connected to the world thanks to a blog: #ruraleando. It's likely that the patients who visit this parish's Health Clinic have no idea that each day at the end of her shift, Denisse Calle (@niches13) publishes, without fear or self-censorship, the problems and progress of the health system, and tells of what she has lived since beginning her placement as a rural doctor.  She does this because she knows what she's talking about: she questions, analyses, tests and proposes solutions.

If you have a look at #ruraleando, you might stop to read about day 112, when Doctor Calle met Segundo, an addict in rehabilitation who arrived with an intestinal infection, and left smiling ear to ear after being given a new opportunity to begin again. 

There is also the story of a 29-year-old patient with high glucose levels, who, after arriving at the hospital for testing was simply told that he looked fine, and should come back four days later –and not one test was performed!

In the same post, the author tells of her encounter with Marlon, a child with special needs who came to the clinic and was entertained by the music of Pink Floyd.

These are every day stories, so common that they seem normal.

The blog teaches us to look further than the distraction of medicine as a profession, a profession which no longer centers itself in the patient, bur in endlessly dolling out prescriptions and medical exams. Its pain touches us while reflecting upon the human element in a community's problems.

Imagen tomada de #ruraleando

Denisse with one of her patients, Génesis. Image taken from #ruraleando, and used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 3.0 EC)

Thanks to the blog, Denisse was able to make contact with national representatives in Health and tell them of needs which would go unseen, unfelt or unlived unless they become a part of this reality.

Through a proposal for a first aid training program after helping a traffic-accident victim in a very difficult situation, she was able to contact the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In a blog post, the doctor explains:

Un hombre inmóvil sobre el asfalto, gente (20 personas) alrededor, 2 policías… y nadie, NADIE! se acercó a siquiera tocarle el pulso… me arrodillé y cuando iba a tocarlo, la policía me dijo “qué va a hacer? no lo puede tocar, no le puede hacer nada!” a lo que le respondí SOY MÉDICO!, entonces me autorizó hacerlo…  Sí! suena absurdo! autorizarle a alguien auxiliar a un desconocido que ha sufrido un accidente, mientras tu le preguntas a la gente sobre si vio el vehículo que atropelló a la persona, por dónde se fue, de qué color era. 

A man, motionless on the asphalt, a crowd of 20 people and two policeman around him…and no one, NO ONE, came forward to even feel his pulse…I knelt down and when I was about to touch him, the police asked me “What are you going to do? You can't touch him, you can't do anything to him!” to which I replied “I'M A DOCTOR!” and they gave me permission. Yes!  It sounds absurd! Authorizing someone to help a stranger who's suffered an accident, while you ask the people around whether they saw the vehicle that hit the person, where it went or what color it was.

In July, Denisse received an invitation to be part of the Seminario-Taller Internacional ”Retos Actuales de la Salud Pública en Ecuador y Vigilancia Ciudadana de las Políticas Públicas y Servicios de Salud” [International Lecture-Workshop "Current Challenges in Ecuador's Public Health and Civic Vigilance of Public Policy and Health Services"], and Nobel Prize winner in Medicine, Thomas Südhof [en], even responded to one of her queries through the BBC

In this way, bit by bit, what began as a dream is becoming reality. Since publishing the first post in February 2013, Denisse has written about her wish to “show that change in health begins rurally; if a community is educated about things which seem tiny and even unimportant, you can achieve big changes.”

October 22 2013

This Weekend at Developing Latin America 2013 Apps Challenge (Part I)

dal2013pic

Photo from Desarrollando América Latina Facebook page.

This past weekend has been very productive for the Developing Latin America (#DAL2013) Apps Challenge; there was movement in person and on social networks in almost all locations of the participating countries. In this post we bring you a brief summary of what happened.

In México [es] they share some of the challenges they have raised and the activities they have organized to find solutions: 

#DAL2013 challenge about education in Mexico, children's rights and more.

Challenge ‘Infancy Counts': Visualizes the state of infancy in Mexico.

Video: Data expedition with @Mexicanos1o for #DAL2013

#DAL2013 Challenge: Information about quality and service in health clinics. Have you picked yours?

#DAL2013 Challenge: Help youth identify risky situations that can turn them into victims of trafficking.

Participants in Guatemala [es] have shown their excitement about a series of scheduled conferences:

Saturday conferences begin.

Socio-technical network of a flexible screen

“Ideas are easy to copy; business ideas, socio-technical ideas are harder” Alvaro Figueredo

The project has to take on a life of its own and have momentum to keep going- Javier Álvarez

The presentation on civic hacking is available here –> http://t.co/Y3PzA489T5

Civic hackers from Costa Rica [es] took some time off this weekend, but the previous weekend they held their hackathon:

Experts co-creating with participants. In Costa Rica #DAL2013 has just begun!

24 hours later, 10 teams, 34 young people, a lot of talent.

A lot has happened at #DAL2013 Do you want to learn about the hackathon in Costa Rica?

#DAL2013 Costa Rica winners awarded by President Laura Chinchilla

@nacion brings us an article about all the winning teams of Developing Latin America Costa Rica 2013

Colombia [es] also held its hackathon earlier:

@williamgomezg presents #mochilapp projects, health and technology, political oversight. Great ideas!

@TheColombist presents this interesting project #RutaCiudadana

@sibcolombia shows for the first time their dynamic and open app to explore georeferenced data

Colombia also develops solutions at #DAL2013

Hackers and other specialists in Ecuador [es] are working towards Demo Day on October 26, but they've also been sharing some tweets about their activities:

#DAL2013 kicks off in Ecuador at ESPAE, Espol Campus Las Peñas

Ecuador seeks to find solutions to problems related to transportation, environment, democracy, health and education.

Complete integration between participants at DAL Ecuador

Awards at DAL Ecuador are being presented, thanks to @McDonalds_Ecu

We thank Santa María University for hosting the data scraping event last night.

And in Peru [es] there's been a lot of activity in the past two weekends, with the hashtags #datamaskay (data search) and #dataminka (work with data) becoming quite popular on Twitter:

#DAL2013 throughout October! [month of hackathons, earthquakes and miracles!] > @IPAE_Innova and @escuelab invite you!

Solutions are found in open data. In Peru ideas become solutions!

We have data! Latest poll about corruption 2013

Ideas discussed at #dataminka!

Once participants decided which app would be ideal to develop, they debated which resources they will use.

In the next post we will continue reporting about activities in the other countries participating in Developing Latin America 2013!

October 21 2013

Ecuador's New Penal Code Would Violate Internet Privacy

National Assembly of Ecuador. Photo by Presidencia de la República del Ecuador on Flickr, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

National Assembly of Ecuador. Photo by Presidencia de la República del Ecuador on Flickr, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

All links lead to Spanish-language pages unless otherwise noted.

The Ecuadorian National Assembly recently approved the Código Orgánico Integral Penal (Organic Penal Code, or COIP), which has raised concerns within civil society organizations. Certain articles of the COIP threaten “the inviolability, storage, and subsequent analysis of information that citizens generate on the Internet, and on any other telecommunications platforms like landline or cellular telephones.”

The new code combines various previous issues of concern, such as the proposal that slander on social media networks could be penalized in Ecuador [en], which—although it ultimately was not included in the COIP draft—and paints a generally bleak picture of the intentions and the future of the Internet in this South American country.

Organizations Usuarios Digitales (Digital Users), Apertura Radical (Radical Openness), and Asociación de Software Libre del Ecuador (Free Software Association of Ecuador) have explained that the way the law is proposed, all telecommunications services, “like ISP, Internet cafes, WiFi zones, businesses that rent phones or allow Internet access, study centers that offer Internet access, and even people who loan their telephone or Internet connection” will have to store the data and connection traffic of the users, despite the risks that this entails.

Unbelievable!!! RT @alfredovelazco @MauroAndinoR Article 474 #COIP: cybercafes must videorecord users and their navigation http://t.co/X3L3XrcVL3

— Rosa María Torres (@rosamariatorres) October 15, 2013

The issue is generating interest in the traditional media, due to its potential impact on the ways in which Ecuadorians use the Internet. And the public has also started to worry:

@gabrielaespais Presumption of suspicion as a premise, violation of the privacy of online communications #Ecuador #COIP http://t.co/t9pmeLNSWc

— Valeria Betancourt (@valeriabet) October 10, 2013

We Ecuadorians are criminals until proven otherwise #COIP. Are we making progress, Homeland?

— María Eugenia Garcés (@meugegarces) October 18, 2013

“I could not return to this country (Ecuador) because I would not be able to access the Internet” #Stallman [software freedom activist] on the Penal Code article: http://t.co/bX3e6Tpy2y

— Radios Libres (@RadiosLibres) October 18, 2013

The aforementioned organizations are taking on the task of raising awareness about the issue, in order to try to put some pressure on the government so that it vetoes the Organic Penal Code's Article 474, which violates citizens’ right to privacy in their Internet communications.

The “Open Letter to President Rafael Correa and Assembly Members on Internet Privacy and the Draft of the Integral Organic Penal Code,” published on citizen media and various blogs, states, among other things, the following:

Instamos a la Asamblea Nacional y al Gobierno de Ecuador a compatibilizar la Ley propuesta con los estándares internacionales de derechos humanos a fin de precautelar con el mayor rigor la privacidad, la libertad de expresión y la libertad de asociación, en la perspectiva de fortalecer el sistema democrático acorde a los Principios Internacionales sobre la Aplicación de los Derechos Humanos a la Vigilancia de las Comunicaciones [1].

Solicitamos, por tanto, que no se aprueben artículos del Proyecto del Código Orgánico Integral Penal que vulneran los derechos ciudadanos y nos ponen en indefensión frente al almacenamiento indiscriminado y posterior análisis de nuestra información.

We urge the National Assembly and the Government of Ecuador to make the proposed law compatible with international human rights standards, in order to safeguard privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of association with the greatest rigor, in the context of strengthening the democratic system in accordance with the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance [1] [en].

Therefore, we request that the articles of the Draft of the Integral Organic Penal Code which violate citizens’ rights and leave us defenseless against indiscriminate storage and subsequent analysis of our data are not approved.

Given that President Correa threatened to resign when a group of ruling-party Assembly members promoted the decriminalization of abortion in cases of rape, in a proposal of the Integral Organic Penal Code debated in the Assembly, it seems unlikely that he will recant and veto Article 474 of COIP.

October 17 2013

Ecuadorian Women March in Defense of the Amazon

[All links lead to Spanish-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

The Ecuadorian president's decision to suspend the Yasuní ITT environmental plan [en] continues to generate mobilizations [en] and initiatives from civil society and activists interested in the preservation of the Amazon. This time, it is the women leaders of the various communities of the Pastaza [en] who have organized and launched a “Mobilization for Life”.

A press release from the organizers of the mobilization, which was republished in the blog Amazonian Commune Youth Organization (Organización Juvenil Comuna Amazónica), states among other things:

Hoy somos las mujeres quienes tomamos la posta en esta lucha como dadoras de vida. Somos las abuelas, madres, hijas y hermanas quienes hemos decidido salir en defensa de la vida por la femineidad que nos conecta con la fuente primordial de la existencia humana. Nosotras, desde las bases, buscamos revivir el vínculo fundamental que nos une a este vasto organismo vivo y cuyo ultraje solo ha creado situaciones de miseria para quienes vivimos en la selva.

Today it is we, the women, who take the lead in this struggle as givers of life. It is we, the grandmothers, mothers, daughters and sisters who have decided to stand up for life for the womanhood that connects us with the primordial source of human existence. We women, from the grassroots, seek to revive the fundamental link that joins us to this vast living organism, the affront to which has only created situations of misery for those of us who live in the rainforest.

Prior to the mobilization, the assembly “Women Keeping Vigil for Life” was held on October 10th and 11th in Fátima parish in the city of Puyo, to socialize the proposal of mobilization towards the city of Quito, as well as to discuss other issues. After the assembly they declared:

1. Nosotras las mujeres de las nacionalidades amazónicas nos declaramos en movilización hacia la ciudad de Quito en oposición a la explotación petrolera y demás formas extractivistas, por ser atentatorio contra toda forma de vida en nuestra región y en defensa de la vida, de nuestros territorios y de nuestros derechos.

2. Exigimos al Gobierno Nacional la no ampliación de la frontera petrolera, en el marco de la XI ronda petrolera (Ronda petrolera Centro Sur), la expansión del bloque 10, la concesión inconstitucional de los bloques 28, 78 y 86, a la empresa estatal Petroamazonas ni la explotación del parque nacional Yasuni (bloques 43 y 31).

1. We, the women of the Amazonian nationalities, declare ourselves in mobilization toward the city of Quito in opposition to oil exploitation and other extractive forms, for being prejudicial against every form of life in our region and in defense of life, of our territories and of our rights.

2. We demand that the National Government not engage in the enlargement of the oil frontier, in the context of the 11th oil round (Centro Sur oil round), the expansion of block 10, the unconstitutional concession of blocks 28, 78 and 86 to the state-owned company Petroamazonas nor the exploitation of Yasuní national park (blocks 43 and 31).

The Huangana Collective, “a channel of self-mobilization of the AMAZONIAN WOMEN of Ecuador in defense of their ancestral territories and against oil exploitation”, made the following video:

On Saturday, October 12th, the mobilization was initiated, departing from the city of Luyo and arriving at night on the same day in Tungurahua. On Monday, the approximately 110 marching women were in the city of Ambato, and then in Latacunga.

Finally, on the morning of Wednesday, October 16th, the march reached the capital city of Quito, beginning their circuit from the locality of Guajaló, in the south of the city, and finishing in Arbolito Park, in the northern part.

On Twitter, the account @Yasunidos has been one of the most active ones spreading the march and its details:

[Photo: “Walk with us (Oct 16) Guajaló Bridge: 8:00 Arbolito Park: 12:00”]
#MujeresPorLaAmazonia (Women for the Amazon), for your home, for your life, for the Yasuní to receive them with wide open arms!!!

Felipe Bucaram for his part made a comparison with the recent ranking of the Ecuadorian football team for the World Cup:

Women for the Amazon arrive this morning in Quito to defend their land! This makes me MUCH more proud than classifying [to the World Cup].

Various users were tweeting photos of the route of the march on Wednesday:

in minutes a press conference will start, mobilization of women of the Amazon in defense of life

[Photo: “Only we, the WOMEN of the AMAZON RAINFOREST, know what life is in the rainforest - NO MORE OIL EXPLOITATION!”]
the atmosphere on Guajaló bridge

Look at those faces, of courageous women, Sarayacu, who do represent me

We share our photo with you. Women of the Amazon start a march.

“We've got chicha, we've got corn, oil companies out of our countryCOUNTRY”, shout the Women for the Amazon

Women for the Amazon advancing towards Arbolito Park

“We can't let our women down… They are the protagonists of this march.”

Women living in cities also joined the march:

Thus we walk struggling, being born, growing up in the struggle!

Although one of the objectives of the march is to gain an audience with Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and representatives of the National Assembly to deliver the manifesto to them, so far it is unknown whether such meetings will take place. Some media report that the march has impeded vehicular traffic in some parts of the city.

More photos of the march in this set on Facebook, and up-to-the-minute happenings under the hashtag #MujeresPorLaAmazonia on Twitter.

October 03 2013

Will Ecuador Criminalize Slander on Social Networks?

Social network users in Ecuador could risk prosecution for crimes of libel and slander under criminal law reforms that will be brought before to the National Assembly in the coming days. Authored by Alexis Mera, the legal presidential secretary and driving force behind the proposal, such offenses could be punishable by two years in prison.

“I have proposed to regulate all slander processes on social networks because these networks cannot be an instrument of impunity. I have asked the Bureau of Justice to make a special procedure in the instance of libel on Twitter or Facebook because now libel against a person that has 1000 followers may be faster and do more damage,” said Mera [es] at the end of August.

More recently, Assemblyman Mauro Andino stated [es] that ways of bringing these measures into practice are being explored, since identifying the individuals behind various accounts on the Internet is “quite complicated”. One of the options he put forth is the obligatory installation of cameras in Internet cafes, “not to attack someone's privacy, not to control social networks,” but in order to identify the perpetrators of the crimes.

Internet cafe. Photo by Pixelthing via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Internet cafe. Photo by Pixelthing via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

These measures, however, contradict recommendations from international human rights organizations and constitute a threat to Ecuadorians’ freedom of expression. Several civil society organizations, both Ecuadorian and international, have rejected this proposal, arguing that peoples’ rights outside the Internet are the same in an online setting and that expression on social networks should not be categorized differently.

Frank La Rue, UN Special Reporter for the promotion and protection of the freedom of opinion and expression, said in various reports that “given the peculiar features of the Internet, a series of regulations and restrictions that could be considered legitimate and proportionate in the case of traditional media do not tend to be so when applied to the Internet.” He also reiterated a number of times that “defamation should be decriminalized”. The prime movers of this reform are doing the exact opposite.

The measures being taken for implementation (such as imposing surveillance mechanisms in Internet cafes) have a big impact on citizens’ freedom of expression and privacy. One the one hand, it threatens the principles of necessity and proportionality enshrined in international legislation for restrictions on freedom of expresion. On the other, it attributes control to private companies like Internet cafes (and, although its proponents have not mentioned it, probably to Internet service providers as well), ignoring the legal safeguards available to the public when not dealing with the Internet.

Measures like the ones Ecuador aims to carry out discourage public deliberation and translate into practices of self-censorship, which can lead to a true undermining of democracy.

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