When the issue is not only compliance – The reality of human rights in Ecuador

As Europeans, we tend to undermine the issues of developing countries and their difficulties with social and political obstacles they have to deal with every day. South America and especially small countries such as Ecuador seem to be stuck in transitional periods for almost over fifty years. In order to find out more about human rights in this country, I had the great opportunity to interview Andrea Balda Aspiazu.

She has been studying in the US and working when she was there in the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, researching about the development of human rights education in Nicaragua, Mexico and Brazil. Then she came back to Ecuador to work at the School of Administration and Political Science of the Universidad de Casa Grande, but she used to work at JUCONI too, a foundation that develops, implements and shares effective solutions for socially excluded children, young people and families affected by violence that has improved the quality of the services of thousands of children in South America and South Africa.

As I had read in the official website, this NGO has been internationally recognized by UNESCO for its innovative approach and more recently by UNICEF, for offering Mexico’s “Best Practice” for its family work and strong commitment to child rights, so I asked her what she thinks that makes this NGO different from the others and its main purposes. As she has explained to me, what makes Juconi different from all the other organizations is its methodology. It seeks to improve family relations basing the work it does with the family as a unit on attachment parenting techniques. The program has a four step system, recruiting the families by first recruiting the children in the streets of Guayaquil (in the case of Ecuador) Child psychologists visit the children at their usual street corners for around two months; once trust has been gained it is the children who give us access to their real identities and families. Once this is achieved, the organization has to gain the parents’ trust, visits are paid at each home and the relationship between the psychologist and the family starts.

I told her that I would like to know how the situation of children in Ecuador is, and if she thinks that the system provides them a good education and respects their rights. She said that it is slowly improving, “the goal is to have universal national education, and however, the quality of that education is also important. In the rush to achieve this goal, the government may be ignoring the most important aspect of education. The system tries, that cannot be denied, and this government has invested more in education than any other government the past 50 years, maybe more… but what does that matter if the quality of the education is not up to the task? What does it matter if education is supposed to be free is in practice there is no effective supervision over the administration of schools in the marginal sectors of the city and corruption runs rampant? There is still a lot of work to do…”

To continue talking about Human Right issues in Ecuador we commented that, according to Human Rights Watch  “After being re-elected to a third term in February 2013, President Rafael Correa promulgated a sweeping new Communications Law in June regulating broadcast and print media, which undercuts press freedom.” I asked her about the population reaction regarding this law, and if she would say that there is a real freedom of expression in Ecuador. Her answer was really interesting, she began saying the quality of local media and press is VERY BAD. Andrea gave me some ridiculous examples such as critics that were denounced and publicly humiliated in the President’s famous “sabatinas”, his own TV show.

She explained that you cannot defend yourself against that “media machine” which is constantly imposed on you. The government owns TV channels and newspapers so the actual quality of journalism since the Communications Law has really declined.

On a question does she really believes that the free media in Ecuador exists, she noted that media is strictly related to commercial obligations, and that they are seemingly to be the only resource of funds and incomes.

We also talked about the Annual Report: Ecuador 2013 made by Amnesty International, which denounces the fact that indigenous and community leaders faced spurious criminal charges aimed at restricting their freedom of assembly. She told me that the freedom of association is being respected there, but this is related to many things, indigenous communities oppose the laws trying to regulate water and the exploitation of the Yasuni National Reserve so they have become a political target, but since they control a big political sector, the government can’t really part ways with these communities.

To conclude, I asked her if she would say that Human Rights are being duly respected in her country and what she thinks the government should improve. She answered me that this was a very hard question, “at first glance, you might say yes… rights are being respected, they literally are being complied with… but the issue is not only compliance… there is a lot more to be achieved and political polarization and omnipotence is not really the way to do it. We are talking about a country that needs to get used to democracy and it doesn’t know how so whatever stability it enjoys it will take, no matter the price. Thing is though… the price in the end might be too steep. Correa and his government have many achievements that need to be recognized and applauded but you can’t use achievements to excuse other violations. The ideas are all good, putting these in practice is where it falls short…”

Belén González-Puelles Laso


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