The Wall Street Journal recently published an article covering Wednesday’s protests in Ecuador against President Rafael Correa, but key facts were missing and the article contained several misleading statements.
First, it is curious that the WSJ chose to focus on a protest of reportedly “around 3,000 protesters,” when a much larger demonstration took place on Saturday in favor of the government’s labor reform policy. The pro-government rally had participation from 100,000 people, according to organizers, and news outlets such as EFE reported participation of “tens of thousands of workers.” Perhaps an argument can be made that protests are more interesting than rallies supporting measures championed by the government, but the WSJ used the same word, “thousands,” to describe the number of attendees at both events.
The piece also includes a line that reads, “Mr. Correa took office in early 2007 and promptly engineered a new constitution that allowed for his re-election.” In reality, a constitutional convention (i.e. adopting a new constitution) was one of Rafael Correa’s campaign promises the year he was first elected (with 56.7 percent of the vote). Further, the old 1998 constitution allowed for indefinite re-election, though not consecutively, for the presidency, while the 2008 constitution set a limit of two-terms for the presidency, which could be served consecutively. Neither of these basic facts was mentioned in the article.
Finally, the motivations for the protest are selectively reported. Besides vague references to the government’s allegedly “authoritarian attitudes,” two issues are mentioned: “union leaders said the government is looking to divide them by creating new government-dependent organizations and undermine their rights, especially to strike” and “protesters are also rejecting proposed constitutional amendments that would open the door for indefinite re-election of Mr. Correa.” Regarding the first point, the author seems to be referencing the creation of a national workers’ united center (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores), a union federation similar to those in Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. No argument was given as to why this organization would undermine workers’ rights.
Second, the constitutional changes would allow the indefinite re-election of any office holder (as the WSJ has previously reported), not just Correa. Reasonable people may disagree with this reform, but unlimited re-election is not always seen as inherently anti-democratic. In the Western Hemisphere alone, Canada and Nicaragua allow unlimited re-election, and countries including Peru, Uruguay, Chile and Costa Rica allow indefinite re-election for non-consecutive term.