Ecuador: The manipulation of human rights discourse (Erika Arteaga Cruz)

Posted November 20, 2019
Marcha Mujeres during the Ecuadorean National Strike- 2019.10.12
Thousands of Women Marched against the repression policy and state crimes under the orders of Minister of Government María Paula Romo and Minister of Defense Jarrín.

Relatives of those killed as a result of the repression and of indigenous adolescents detained on terrorism charges, wounded, boys who lost their eyes, human rights activists, women who sustained and supported the strike, popular reporters, independent press, delegations from provinces (such as Sucumbios in the northern Amazon where 120 people were imprisoned in a single incident), we presented our testimonies on October 27, 28 and 29, 2019 before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In the spacious rooms of one of the best hotels in Quito there was a large distribution of tables, in the midst of a tense atmosphere. Along with the reception of the testimonies of the victims of the brutal state repression during the last National Strike, we found dozens of policemen giving their testimony, commercial media demanding their freedom of the press, victimizers disrupted into victims.

Are human rights universal or selective? Is it admissible to turn them into a utilitarian resource of politics? Apparently, many of those who claim them forgot that only the State can violate human rights, because it is the legal instance that holds the patrimony of force. And it is not an issue that is reduced to the propination of blows or the irresponsible directing of tear gas bombs to the faces and bodies of demonstrators; This is a planned, systematic and selective repression action, such as intimidating vulnerable human groups (women, children), throwing tear gas in communities and shelters to generate panic (Kichwa La Esperanza commune, Shuar communities in Morona Santiago, university shelters in Quito), selectively persecute and arrest leaders (Marlon Santi, national coordinator of Pachakutik and Jairo Gualinga, leader of the Youth of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE)), bring lawsuits from the State against social leaders (Mesías Tatamuez, President of the United Workers Front (Frente Unitario de Trabajadores) and Jaime Vargas, President of CONAIE), or initiate a witch hunt against groups accused of subversion.

Ordinary citizens are not in a position to violate the human rights of the police or the military. The violent acts that we citizens eventually commit in a public protest are clearly typified in the penal system, and must be assumed from those legal principles. But what we evidenced in the October protests was a state abusing its power against indigenous peoples, social movements, communes and citizens in general. In this repressive scheme, the police and the military act as instruments of this state policy of violation of the rights of the mobilized citizens.

The manipulation of human rights discourse is not, however, an exclusive practice of States. Unfortunately, sectors of the left have also incurred in this misrepresentation from power, despite the fact that the demand for human rights had its peak as part of the struggles of that left against the dictatorships. As Pablo Solón points out, this speech was used to endorse Evo Morales' candidacy for the presidency of the republic, even though the people had said NO to him in the 2016 referendum. In this case, the "human right" of the sovereign leader was above the will of the sovereign people and this assault on democracy has consequences to date.

In the same vein, the discourse of the defense of human rights can also underpin the hidden agendas of certain political sectors. For example, the one evidenced by the international observer mission that recently visited the country. The bias of the report is obvious. It should be entitled "Paola Pabón and her defence in the context of repression in Ecuador".  In the end, it would seem that the trial against the prefect of Pichincha has more relevance than the thousands of detainees, the hundreds of wounded and the dozens of deaths during the national strike. And I am not asking for any violation of anyone's rights to be silenced, but I do demand that a fair measure be applied. In the end, the detention of Pabón is, among other things, the result of the internal conflict of her own political party, while repression against Indigenous peoples and Indigenous Nations has been a constant for decades.

Have we forgotten the systematic aggressions in Saraguro1, Nankintz2 or Intag3 during the previous (Correa´s) government? Nevertheless, it is necessary to demand that Paola Pabón, Virgilio Hernández, Gabriela Rivadeneira, Carlos Viteri and Soledad Buendía - militants with important positions in Alianza País - have their rights respected; those same rights that they denied to the social leaders, left-wing supporters and ecologists persecuted4 during Correa's government, of which they formed part.

Relativism in the defense of human rights must be rejected for the simple fact that they protect all of us equally. They are universal. That is why it is necessary to question the complicit silence of those self-proclaimed progressive governments in the face of human rights violations perpetuated by their peers. What Correa did or what Ortega does in Nicaragua is unacceptable. It would be an aberration to end up paraphrasing Roosevelt's cynical phrase about Somoza ("he's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch") affirming that there are rulers/presidents who are violators of human rights, but they are our violators.

There is much to work on in a left wing that doesn't know how to make sense of its omissions and silences. The crisis of governability that Ecuador is experiencing today is not casual, nor is it the product of treason. To the correístas (Correa´s followers), the short glance is perfect to evade their responsibility with a social repression that lasted ten years and that has just exploded. Ten years during which they silenced the denunciations against the judicialization of more than 600 social leaders5, whose only crime was to defend collective rights and the rights of nature.

The states of exception and the progressive batons are just as brutal as the neoliberal ones.

Erika Arteaga Cruz⃰: Doctor/Physician, feminist, defender of the right to health. Latin American Association of Social Medicine.








This story was submitted in response to Human Rights for All.

Comments 8

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Dawn Arteaga
Nov 20, 2019
Nov 20, 2019

So inspired by you my beautiful sister -- not just on World Pulse! The movements in Ecuador are fortunate to have your strong voice fighting alongside them. I am with you, human rights are human rights. It is insulting that police and state actors were claiming protesters were "violating their human rights" by protesting injustice. And I'm afraid it's something happening in far too many countries around the world. Certainly we are seeing it play out in disgusting fashion in the U.S. where our president thinks that anyone who says he is behaving corruptly is conducting a "witch hunt" and is using his power to defame and diminish others.

Anita Shrestha
Nov 20, 2019
Nov 20, 2019

Dear Sis
Thank you for sharing

Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Nov 21, 2019
Nov 21, 2019

Hello, Erika,

Welcome to World Pulse! It is such a joy that a new voice is rising up from Ecuador!

I wonder if you are related to Dawn because of the Arteaga name.

Human rights are universal, but sadly, they are not practiced in some countries. Your questions are valid indeed. What a chaotic state Ecuador now has. Thank you for speaking up about this.

I'm looking forward to knowing more about you. I'm curious how did you know about World Pulse.

Welcome again to our growing sisterhood!

Jill Langhus
Nov 22, 2019
Nov 22, 2019

Hi Heyoka,

Welcome to World Pulse! It's great to see a voice from Ecuador:-) Wow, it's sad to hear that Ecuador is also in a state of turmoil at this time. So much humanitarian work needs to be done but I'm hopeful that the tide will start to change next year. I'm hearing next year will the start of a new beginning. I do hope so. Are you hopeful for the future? Do you see rays of hope and transformation in your country?

I'm looking forward to seeing more posts from you.

Feb 18
Feb 18

My dear sister,
Thanks for the beautiful write-up. Governments all over the world are paying lip service to human rights. They are the people who abuse human rights of their citizens. What can we do? We will keep talking and raising our collective voices and hoping that someday justice will prevail.

Well done.

Beth Lacey
Feb 20
Feb 20

Human rights are universal. I agree with Dawn. This is a terrible situation for Ecuador and unfortunately it is repeated far too often around the world.

Marie Abanga
Mar 26
Mar 26

Dear Heyoka,

Thank you for braving it and sharing what's going on in Eucuador. I am so disturbed by it all too especially as a lawyer and human rights activist. At least, by raising your voice you let us and the entire world know what's going on. I hope all responsible parties are held accountable when all is said and done.

Mar 27
Mar 27

Heyoka ,Ecuador have just discovered another strong voice "You" to continue to drive the process of promoting the human rights of Ecuador people. thank you for adding your voice and sharing your story