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5.06.2011

Constitutional Reforms in Ecuador

Tomorrow, Saturday May 7th 2011, Ecuadorean citizens will vote on a referendum to change their constitution. They will vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on ten questions proposed by President Rafael Correa. Positive answers to the first five questions imply an automatic constitutional amendment, whereas positive answers to the rest of the questions would mandate the national assembly to reform existing laws or to legislate certain issues. Interestingly, the first set of questions includes important reforms to the judicial system, limits to due process rights in criminal cases, and potential limits to the freedom of the press while the second set of questions asks citizens to approve restrictions on animal suffering, gambling, and illicit enrichment. A simple majority of the people who show up to vote tomorrow is enough to make a decision, given that the actual turnout is at least 8% of the people registered to vote (Constitution of 2008, Art. 441).

Regarding the judicial system, president Correa proposes to dismiss the current members of the judicial council and appoint a three-member “transitory council” that will be in charge of “reforming, in the following 18 months, the entire justice system that is completely broken” (president Correa’s words). One of the three members of such transitory council would be appointed directly by the president, the second by the national assembly (where the president’s party has a majority of seats), and the third by the “Transparency and Social Control” organ, which is very close to the president’s interests.

The other topic that critics have raised regarding the referendum is the limitation to entrepreneurs in the communications business to have investments outside the sector. This restriction, they argue, would increase the dependence of the media on government advertisements. Moreover, question number nine of the referendum asks Ecuadoreans whether they agree on creating a “Regulatory Council” that would prohibit “violate, sexual, or discriminating” content in the printed news, radio, and television.

Opinion polls predict that Rafael Correa, I mean the ‘yes’, will win tomorrow.

JRF

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