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Because of the option piece of September 30 titled “no to the lies”, in which the journalist Emilio Palacio criticized orders were given to “fire without previous notice against a hospital full of civilians and innocent people, President Correa sued Palacio and the Universal newspaper for slander and asking for the exorbitant sum of 80 USD million and prison for the accused.
Due process was not respected in the trial, the accused were physically attacked and the subservience of the justice system to the executive power was evident. Alternative judge Juan Paredes, complacent to the interests of Correa, allegedly was able to study a 5,000 legal brief in only two days and issue a sentence of 156 pages that favored Correa with 40 million dollars for damages and condemned Palacio and the directors of El Universo to three years in prison.
As was expected the ruling was ratified in two higher court instances. The Inter American Human Rights Commission issued a protective ruling in favor of Palacios and the directors of the newspaper, and one of them received political asylum in the Panamanian Embassy.
“The sentence was prepared by the President’s own lawyer,” stated Assembly Member César Montúfar, who made a denunciation before the Attorney General that Judge Paredes, did not draft the sentence but that it came directly from the computer of the President’s lawyer, Guttember Vera. The judge Mónica Encalada, who held the position of judge prior to Paredes, went into exile in Colombia and accused Vera offered USD 750,000 to the judge who signed the sentence against El Universo.
In listening to the President I seemed to hear somebody that acts like a King rather than a President who was elected, “said the journalist Carlos Lauría, of the Committee for the Defense of Journalists, CPJ. He also indicated that a trail of that nature should never have taken place since the use of criminal procedures to punish comments about public officials, is a violation of Article 13 of the Human rights convention that guarantees freedom of expression.”
Rafael Correa’s tactics to gain total control becomes more evident not only in his country, but also in the international arena where his totalitarian purposes and the lack of a democratic vocation are evident. The president’s interests are to control the powers of the state, manipulate the justice system, control media channels such as TC television and Gamavisión as he did in 2008, as well as to repress, trial, threaten that follow the same objectives of his colleagues Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez.
But the most serious threat to Latin America democracy is to see how the new judges, named with the clear support of and commitments to Rafael Correa, reveal how they are subject to the interests of the executive branch and that the sentence against El Universo sets a precedent for future cases. Wilson Merino, President of the Penal National Court of Justice who ruled on the appeal, said “what was resolved by the National Court of Justice establishes jurisprudence and if it is a ruling in three instances, it is obligatory to observe it.”
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.