by Eric Jude Cortes
Here’s how the story goes. A young, charismatic, populist candidate sweeps to power through appeals to poor peasants, the urban workers, and anti-norteamericano rhetoric. This newly empowered leader makes a few positive reforms that please the common folks, and then things start to change. Using their cult of personality and initially positive responses from the people, they gradually solidify their hold on power. Elections are delayed, cancelled, or rigged. Checks and balances are weakened and destroyed. And ultimately, dissent is crushed.
You probably have some idea who I am talking about. It could be Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Pancho Villa, or even my pal down in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. But the person I am speaking of is none other than President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa. While certainly not a dictator yet, lately, Correa has been taking steps to increase his power and set himself up to join that nasty group, that Latinos like myself cringe at, Latin American despots.
In a recent referendum that was barely approved by Ecuador’s voters, the president has now increased control over the country’s court system. To understand the importance of this move, one only need look at United States history, in which there are plenty of examples of an independent judiciary challenging overreaches in presidential authority. If the president had control over the judicial branch, United States v. Jones and United States v. Nixon would have had much different outcomes. By increasing his control over the Ecuadorian courts, Correa has effectively stifled a legitimate means of dissent. In another move, bound to make opposing Correa difficult, media companies will have new restrictions on them and greater government scrutiny will be placed upon journalists; thus opening the door for censorship and restrictions on free speech that contradicts the ruling party’s philosophies.
You may argue that referendums are democratic and it is wrong of me to claim that Correa is becoming despotic when his new power clearly comes from the people. However, allow me to point out, that two of the most hated men in history, Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte, also received dictatorial powers through plebiscites. In spite of this, Hitler and Napoleon were still tyrants. An autocrat with popular support is still an autocrat. Even though Correa may have received his new powers from the people, his aspirations are clearly still reprehensible.
The time has come to openly oppose those who tarnish the reputations of the proud democratic nations of South America. While many of Rafael Correa’s policies have been legitimately beneficial to the people of Ecuador, he must be reminded that the modern world is no place for despots, even the benevolent kind. If the developing world is to become the developed world, it must stop repeating the mistakes of the past. Rafael Correa’s powers grabs must be stopped and his ilk must be swept into the dustbin of history.
To learn more about Eric, randomly bump into him on the street and politely ask him some questions.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.