Last week The Guardian published a piece that wildly misrepresented the situation in Ecuador, offering a one-sided view of recent events. We’ve previously critiqued the paper’s coverage of Ecuador (check that out here) and regional broadcaster TeleSUR has already produced a video addressing some of the falsehoods from The Guardian‘s latest attempt. Their response focused on presenting footage of opposition violence at protests, which The Guardian had uncritically reported as peaceful. However, The Guardian’s report was so full of omissions and outright falsehoods that we felt a further list was in order to set the record straight.
1 – Saraguro Abduction
A source from Saraguro “told The Guardian approximately 1,500 policemen and military descended on his village and were raiding houses and arresting and beating people.”
The Guardian omits the fact that three police, two of whom were high-ranking officers, had been abducted by Saraguro protesters. The police and military forces managed to resolve this situation without escalation and without it resulting in any deaths on either side. A dangerous situation came to a peaceful resolution thanks in part to restraint on the part of the authorities. The Guardian instead depicts unprovoked violent repression. Freedom is slavery.
2 – The Amazon Isn’t the Suburbs
The Guardian criticized a move to clear a group of “peaceful” Shuar and Achuar Amazonian protesters from their highway blockade.
It neglected to mention that after the blockade – which had been stopping traffic for days – was dispersed using tear-gas, the protesters marched to the provincial capital, Macas, and blockaded the head offices of the municipal government. When police initially tried to clear them out using only riot shields and batons, video shows they were routed by the spear-wielding protesters. The Minister of Defense Fernando Cordero told TV news, “We have been attacked with stones and bullets, and we even have soldiers with spear wounds.” Nonetheless, not a single protester has been killed.
3- Inaccurate Reporting on “Beaten” Opposition Activists
“Picq had been beaten by police using batons and detained on the evening of 13 August,” The Guardian claimed. She told The Guardian she was effectively “kidnapped by the state” and held “without any due process”. Yet Manuela Picq is not on public record anywhere claiming she was beaten. Pictures from shortly after the protests show her looking perfectly healthy.
As for due process, The Guardian forwent mention of the fact that a judge subsequently not only ruled in Picq’s favor regarding claims of an expired visa, but reportedly ordered an investigation into possible irregularities in the handling of her case. This is an aspect of the story that does not conveniently fit the narrative of an oppressive state, as is seemingly the aim of this article, but rather evidences the checks and balances within it.
Likewise, The Guardian credulously recounted opposition politician Salvador Quishpe’s allegations that he was seized and beaten, after he appeared on video cartoonishly covered in soot. This same man appears over the following days, unharmed, playing the drums and giving speeches. This is the kind of hype the opposition engage in. The Guardian doesn’t go into these details, which make the opposition seem irrational and ridiculous.
4 – Reasons for Protest
The Guardian mentions a number of reasons that these protests are taking place (everything from water rights to a possible third term for the president) but neglects to point out that these protests are in a large part attributed – including by many participants – to the proposed increases in the inheritance and capital gains taxes on the wealthy. These are policies which many of The Guardian’s readers would likely support, but which the newspaper chose to withhold from them.
5 – Vague Accusations
Though The Guardian posts this piece as a report on incidents in Ecuador, the descriptions of the events that occurred fail to accurately state any particular accusation beyond vague insinuations such as “targeting intimate parts” of female protesters, a quote that the author fails to attribute. Is it from the “Women of the Strike” organization quoted later in the piece? Is this an allegation of rape and torture? Beating around the groin area? The Guardian article does not clarify this; nor does it explain, the phrase “mercilessly mistreating the people”. It is unclear what kind of mistreatment took place or who the victims are.
6 – Highly Selective Quoting
The article is almost entirely composed of quotes and paraphrased statements. Given this abundance of references one would expect a fair representation of differing views in Ecuador. Yet, the quotes are taken entirely from indigenous activists within the opposition, who do not represent all indigenous groups.
These are not even the main opposition bloc. The main opposition comes from the right, from pro-US reactionary forces, who were responsible for disappearances and extrajudicial killings when in power in the 80s. These are the forces who would gain power if Correa’s government were ousted. Ecuador would not see any indigenous or environmental progress under their government but rather a loss of the victories for social justice won so far in the country.
In complaining about The Guardian’s reporting on Ecuador we do not aim to convince our readers that it is an earthly paradise, ruled by saints. There are all kinds of tensions and problems, some of them exacerbated by the failings of a government whose members are obviously subject to all the corrupting temptations that come with eight years of power and prestige. There are a great many lessons to be drawn for progressives around the world from this earnestly progressive and populist government, and its failings. Unfortunately, The Guardian doesn’t seem to be interested in that discussion, the one about what people at the center of the world power system have to learn from those at its periphery. Instead they repeat and amplify easily disprovable falsehoods.
Even worse, these falsehoods largely originate from a stream within Ecuadorian politics that has made clear it does not respect the repeated electoral victories of the government, and has in recent days called for the military and police to rebel: direct incitement to a coup of the sort Latin America is all too familiar with, last attempted in Ecuador in 2010. These calls are another element The Guardian chooses to withhold from their readers.
One can only wonder at their motives.