Friday, October 26, 2012

Big Protest in Chile in the Wake of University Demonstrations

By: Seaira Christians Daniels
Produced & edited by Kaylyn Hlavaty

“The buses weren’t running again today.”

“I couldn’t leave out my front door.”

“The entire block was shut down, and that’s why I’m late for work today.”

Rakesh Arora, Owner of Jewel of India Restaurant, has heard all of these excuses for his employees being late to work, and he believes them all. The Jewel of India is located in the Providencia region of Santiago, Chile, about a 15-minute drive from Santiago de Centro, the capital city’s downtown.

Arora had read news articles on the Internet with images of cloudy mists of tear gas and block-lettered banners blaring the statements of young people protesting the Chilean higher education system. The demonstrations have been occurring as early as 2005, and continue today.

When student protests erupt, public transportation service is suspended and many streets shut down; employees living in Centro must wait for the storm of activists to subside.

Courtesy of Wikipedia. Academic Fair Use.

Arora says Chilean protests starkly differ those in his native country, India.

“We can do protests in India; we don’t eat, all we do is sit. We don’t strike, and we don’t damage property.”

He chuckles to himself; his country still practices the non-violent protest ideology established by Mahatma Gandhi, he says.

He’s thankful his swanky, stucco and clay-tiled roof eatery, ranked number one by, is left relatively unscathed from the sometimes-violent demonstrations.

Many restaurants closer to downtown Santiago haven’t had such luck.

Impossible. That’s how Agusbin Ronero, manager at Ana María Restaurant in the Metropolitan region of Santiago, describes the difficulty in running his business while students are protesting.

Ana María is a brisk, seven-minute walk from the nearest university, Universidad Andrés Bello, in Santiago de Centro. Ronero has to close his restaurant whenever student marches start.

He says the protests have stifled his business, along with many other casinos, or local cafes, located near Chilean universities.

A few paces farther than around the corner from Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, Gato Pardo Restaurant is subjected to the same closures as Ana María.

It’s the students’ methods, says Juan Romero, manager at Gato Pardo, not the message, that he disagrees with.

“The central idea is good,” he says, “the intentions are good.”

However, Romero says the students may be causing more harm than good because the protests are sometimes dangerous. Many of the student demonstrations escalate to a volley of tear gas and firebomb throwing between police and the protestors.

Romero estimates that only ten percent of the students involved in the protests have actually been victims of the high credit interest rates and substandard educational quality that originally sparked the protests.

Most of the rest, he says, are delinquents who join the ranks of protestors and use the demonstrations as an opportunity to incite havoc.

He suggests the students engage in more peaceful dialogue with the government as a better avenue to express their discontent.

Government Policy and Plans
Small businesses are allies of the Chilean government, says president Sebastián Piñera.

He says the ingenuity and meticulous preparatory skills that entrepreneurs use to forecast good business models will help develop Chile and eliminate poverty.

But with a group of unsatisfied and unsettled young people, the Chilean government has had to revamp its policy on education.

In 2011, the government released a statement saying that it would make new efforts to improve the quality of education, the level of transparency in government, and reduce the amount of student debt.

Under the Crédito con Aval de Estado, or government guaranteed bank loan program, the Chilean government promises to decrease low-income student loan interest rates with a state bank guarantee.

In late September 2012, a new budget plan was unveiled announcing that the nation will be spending more money on education in the future.

The amount of total income the government has spent on education since 2007 has steadily increased; however, the majority of the 18.2 percent total spending distributed to education is sent to pre-primary, primary, and secondary education, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

To meet demands of student activists, Chilean administrators created scholarships like La Beca Vocación Profesor, a Professor’s Vocational Scholarship, which gives aid to students training to be teachers. And the government says it wants to add 110,000 more scholarships by the end of this year.

On the Home Front
In addition to her household chores, Teresa Calderon works 12 hours per week doing laundry and ironing to contribute to her family’s largest investment, the education of her two daughters.

Her husband works 54 hours per week to fulfill the traditional duty of Chilean parents, funding an education for their children. The national average is about 40 hours per week, according to a 2011 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report.

The result is worth the labor to Teresa when she considers the noticeable difference in the quality of education between public and private universities in Chile.

She says her two daughters, who are enrolled in private universities, know more English than students in public universities, and will have a more valuable degree with the help of the weight of their private institution’s name.

Josefina Aguierra, a Chilean university student who attended Redlands High School in Redlands, CA, says she had more resources at the public American high school than do her peers who attend public universities in Chile.

Because of the educational inequalities in Chile, Teresa rallies, with many neighbors, friends, and countrymen, behind the cause of the student activists. She does not fear the violence resulting from some protests.

Courtesy of The Atlantic. Academic Fair Use.

“They are exercising their rights; I’m not afraid,” she says, as though the large public disturbances caused by both students and delinquent trouble-seekers were an afterthought to the grand ideology that the government should provide an education for its people.

Teresa thinks that perhaps the government should pay for public education because the students who graduate are helping to better their country. The schooling, in that sense, is a public service.

“A better access to education gives you a better social environment. If you have to pay back the loans, how can you do that?” she inquired. She says she knows people still making payments on university loans 20 years after they’ve graduated.

Marching and picketing past the transience of immediate reform, the student protesters aim to permanently alter Chilean educational policy.

Aguierra says the protestors hope that someday, their social movement will be chronicled on the pages of future history books.

“We want to be known as the generation that changed education in Chile,” she says.

Flooding Causes Health Problems in South Sudan

By: Victoria Calderon
Produced & edited by Kaylyn Hlavaty

At the peak of malaria season and in the midst of heavy flooding in South Sudan, medical aid is needed more than ever for Southern Sudanese refugees, but violence has suspended the delivery of necessary medical services from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

“[The] majority of South Sudanese heavily rely on humanitarian aid,” says CHF International South Sudan Director Senada Kahriman, especially when 60 per cent of the country is cut off from access during the rainy season.

Médecins Sans Frontières Head of Mission in South Sudan Stefano Zannini says MSF is close to suspending all services in the country due to security concerns.

Courtesy of Catholic Relief Services Staff. Academic Fair Use.
“This will have a devastating impact on the community, leaving more than 160,000 residents of Pibor County without access to health care,” says Zannini.

Some agencies have pulled their regular staff and organized mobile teams to provide daily visits to remote villages, says Kahriman.

“In Abyei for example, where health facilities and the entire town were destroyed and people displaced, mobile teams travel daily to provide services to returnees, and the new health facilities have been established in the places where the population was displaced.”

South Sudan’s grasslands, swamps, and tropical rain forests that straddle both banks of the White Nile serve as a breeding ground for life-threatening diseases when the river floods.

According to Médecins Sans Frontières, malaria cases have tripled in the Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal state.

Spikes of malaria generally start in May and begin to subside in September and October until they hit their lowest point in December. However, the rainy season began even earlier than usual this year and will likely continue longer than normal.

The states most affected by flooding are Jonglei, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Upper Nile and Warrap.

“Seasonal flooding has affected about 260,000 people this year across South Sudan. Although coordinated emergency response is ongoing to flood-affected people, needs can only partially be met,” says Kahriman.

The continued influx of Sudanese refugees has strained humanitarian operations.

“Upper Nile and Unity State have received huge number of refugees from the north, fleeing conflict affected areas of Blue Nile State and Southern Kordofan. There are also great needs to assist returnees coming from the north of Sudan, as well as [internally displaced persons]. UN sources confirm that More than 126,000 people have returned to South Sudan this year,” says Kahriman.

The heavy flow of water has strengthened the presence of infected mosquitos, which increase the likelihood that malaria will be transmitted to people after they are bitten, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Lamwalhok Liah is a worker in the out patient department of Médecins Sans Frontières in Juba, South Sudan. He says the condition of malaria and typhoid are present in all ten states, but it is at its height in the headquarters of Juba and the upper Nile region.

Malaria is preventable and curable, but the Plasmodium parasite that is spread with the bites of infected mosquitoes causes around 216 million cases of malaria every year around the world.

The large numbers of South Sudanese who were living in Sudan have returned to the south since the country’s independence, and these people have less immunity to malaria and are more likely to develop the disease says WHO.

South Sudan successfully transitioned to independence in June 2011 after 99 per cent of Southern Sudanese voted to separate from Sudan. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement established that South Sudan regional autonomy.

Partial human immunity, especially among adults in areas of moderate to intense transmission conditions, can be built up after years of exposure even if it will never provide complete protection, according to WHO.

Despite the excess of floodwater from the White Nile, refugees are sick with dehydration.

South Sudan courtesy of Shannon Jensen. Academic Fair Use.
According to the Amherst-based Global Water Policy Project in the United States, about 36-percent of Africa’s population lacks access to safe drinking water. By 2025, the United Nations Development Program estimates that about one in two Africans will be living in countries that are confronted with water scarcity.

This water stress indicates that each person in the country has access to less than 1,500 cubic meters of water every year. In cases of water scarcity, this amount is reduced to 1,000 cubic meters.

This situation leaves Sudanese vulnerable to contracting waterborne diseases like diarrhea and Cholera in addition to the already rampant malaria.

The livelihood of Sudan depends on the use of its water sources. Eighty per cent of the country works in agriculture, and this accounts for 97 per cent of its water use, according to The Water Project.

The 22-year civil war that ended in 2005 left the health infrastructure of South Sudan in a poor condition, according to the Malaria Consortium, and non-governmental organizations have provided a range of health support while the infrastructure improves.

Kahriman says that while South Sudan is dependent on the health care from NGOs, “significant improvement [was] made this year in coordinating support to primary health care services, and jointly developed long-term strategy for health sector. This has brought together the government, key donors (USAID, World Bank and DFiD) and implementing NGOs.”

Southern Sudanese leaders fought for autonomy after more than two million southern Sudanese had paid for freedom with their lives. Another four million were displaced during the twenty-two years of guerilla warfare before the peace accord was established.

South Sudan remains to be one of Africa’s least developed countries as indicated by The Least Developed Countries Report 2011, determined by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The Road to Heroin hits Zanzibar

By: Molly Nocheck
Produced & edited by Leisha Lininger

For tourists, Zanzibar offers the perfect destination for a blissful getaway. Island tourists are enticed by sandy beaches lined by turquoise-blue water, the historic charm of Stone Town and the rich culture of the island.

Zanzibar, an archipelago of Tanzania, is a popular tourist destination. Foreigners are drawn to the picturesque coastline and rich history of the island.

Most are unaware, however of the heroin epidemic that has ravaged locals.

By delving deeper into the seemingly idyllic island, the extent of the heroin epidemic is obvious. Zanzibar is quickly becoming an emerging player in the heroin trafficking ring.

Courtesy of U.S. Embassy Tanzania. Academic Fair Use.
“The tourists are generally unaware of what goes on in local society. They spend a lot of the time on the beach. Quite a disconnect,” said Tamalyn Dallal, producer of Zanzibar Dance, Trance and Devotion.

Heroin trafficking and addiction has become a national issue of concern for Tanzania.

Zanzibar’s island health ministries estimate at least seven per cent of the nearly one million inhabitants are addicted to heroin, one of the highest usage rates in the world.

According to the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Tanzania is primarily a transit country with some local consumption of heroin.

Zanzibar lies on a major drug trafficking corridor for markets in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The unique geographical nature of the island makes it difficult for officials to monitor porous borders.

The Zanzibar coordinator for the National Commission of Drug Control, Dr. Mahmoud Mussa, says unofficial, unorganized harbors and lack of proper detection equipment make it easy for trafficking to occur.

This coupled with local corruption and global ignorance makes Zanzibar a prime trafficking stop.

“Europeans and North Americans do not inspect containers originating from Zanzibar as carefully as they would if the containers were originating from India, Pakistan or Afghanistan,” said Hassan Jaffer, a member of the Outreach Zanzibar board of directors.

“There is little cooperation, networking and sharing of information… within the country and with international partners,” said Dr. Mussa.

The lack of communication is creating a problem both internationally and with locals.

Heroin, locally referred to as “brown sugar,” is easy to come by on the island.

Courtesy of the U.S Department of State. Academic Fair Use.
“The heroin is very cheap and easy to access in Zanzibar; the individual can pick up one foil-wrapped dose on the street for around less than $1,” said Dr. Mussa.

Suleiman Mauly, a former addict who runs a network of rehabilitation centers in Zanzibar, says the local addiction is rooted in trafficking.

“Local dealers are a part of a chain, receiving the drugs from big dealers.”

These dealers obtain the heroin either from the ships docked at one of the harbors or from drug mules, who ingest small amounts into the stomach.

“Availability, accessibility of drugs and the effect of the tourism industry are among other risk factors that make youth in Zanzibar indulge in abuse of drugs,” said Dr. Mussa.

For local Zanzibaris, overcoming the growing heroin problem is difficult.

“Zanzibar is a very corrupted island. It’s very difficult to go to jail for drug dealers,” said Mauly.

Local resident Warda Al Jahadhmy agrees. “They go to jail for few months, are released and they are back in business again, destroying our brother and sister’s lives.”

Mauly, who has been called the “Nelson Mandela of heroin addition”, says increased access to rehabilitation centers is key to combating heroin usage on the island.

Dallal sees a need for a more worldwide approach.

“Zanzibar is an entry point for drugs headed from India and Pakistan to South Africa and Europe. So if there was less demand in those countries, it would not be entering Zanzibar.”

Park-Geun-hye Vies to Become Next Female World Leader in South Korea

By: CJ Buskey
Produced and edited by: Kaylyn Hlavaty

Out of the 196 countries that span the globe, only 20 of them have elected a woman as its leader. By the end of the year, another country might add itself to this list.

South Korea will hold its Presidential election this December and one of the country’s leading candidates is a woman.

The candidate, Park Geun-hye, is running under the nomination of the ruling party, the conservative Saenuri Party, where she has been credited as one of the main reasons why the party has gained a ruling majority of 152 seats on the City Council.

“Park Geun-hye is definitely the leading candidate for this election, because she is the most qualified,” says Gwangju resident Rodney Kang.

“When she was in the Blue house, Cheongwadae, as the daughter of a former president, Park Junghee, she picked up politics and learned how to control power. She was actually trained to be his successor.”

Park Geun-hye announces her plan to run for president
    Courtesy of Ahn Young-joon- AP  Academic Fair use
Yet, South Korea, which has acted as a Democracy since 1948, has yet to see a woman seriously challenge for the Presidency until Park’s current campaign. Many South Koreans, however, don’t see Park’s gender as any reason to change their opinion of her.

“I don't care whether a President is a woman or not,” says Kim Hyeon Kyung, a female art teacher in Seoul, “but in Asian societies, being a woman can be a obstacle on her way.”

But Seoul resident and student Lee Sung Jin says he thinks that South Korea may be the exception to this belief.
“Nowadays, South Korea has become a culture that is open to change. I don’t believe that we have sexual discrimination here and it doesn’t matter to me what [Park’s] gender is. However, there are still a few groups that share this old type of thinking.”

One of these old beliefs that could affect Park negatively is the fact that Park is single.

“Most of the older generation thinks that if someone didn't raise children of their own and didn't support a family, they can't understand an average person’s real life,” says Kang, “they think that no family means no life, so how can she do well with national affairs.”

Another issue that concerns South Korean voters has nothing to do with Park as person, but with her family’s history.

Park is the daughter of former South Korea President Park Jung-Hee, who ruled the country for a span of nearly 20 years, until he was assassinated in 1979. Park’s father, despite helping South Korea’s economy to substantial growth, was viewed by many South Koreans as a dictator because of his authoritarian approach as well as curtailing constitutional freedoms during his regime.

“Most people don’t know her history,” says Lee, “but we know her father’s history. Park Jung-hee was a dictator. It’s really hot issue now.”

Recently, Park came under fire from other South Koreans for her attitude towards her father’s history. When asked in an interview in early September on what her feelings were on one of her father’s execution of several People’s Revolution Party activists in 1970, she replied “We’ve had two court rulings on that.” Park apologized two weeks later for her comments and has since denounced her father’s actions.

Former South Korea's President Park Chung Hee
Courtesy of NNDB mapper Academic Fair Use

“Whatever apologies she made, her conservative supporters would try to accept her apology, but her opponents, liberals, would not accept them,” says Changsup Lee, the Executive Managing Editor of the Korea Times. “The bottom line is not to alienate the undecided voters.”

Fortunately for Park, many of South Korea’s younger voters seem not to care as much about her father or gender.
“Even if her father was a dictator, I don't care. That and the fact she is a woman doesn’t affect me, even though I’m a woman,” says 29-year-old Song Kyoung Eun of Daejeon.

Oh Seung Hoon, a 28 year-old art teacher in Seoul, shares similar sentiments with Song.

“Maybe the old in here can be influenced with her father's history and her gender, but that's not effective to me and other younger people,” says Oh, “the first woman President of South Korea will be fabulous, even though I’m not sure it will be her.”

Park is trying to join the small minority of leaders across the worlds that are women, and some of them are already making an impact in office.

Germany’s Chancellor Anglea Merkel, for instance, has gained international recognition already for leading the discussions to help solve the ongoing Eurozone crisis.

Torsten Schwenke, who works out of Munich as a freelancer, says he believes that Merkel’s gender actually helps her favorability ratings.

“I like the fact that she is a woman, and I think that most Germans do as well. She is often considered as ‘The Mother’ and who doesn’t like his mother?”

Dilma Rousseff, the President of Brazil, has also gained international recognition, especially after being named one of Forbe’s most powerful people in the world.

Park, however, still needs to be elected before she can begin to have aspirations of what Merkel has been able to accomplish as a female leader.

Kang says that the results of the U.S. election may in fact affect Park’s chances at getting elected.

“The worst-case scenario would be a win for [Mitt] Romney and Park Geun-hye. Because both are conservatives, they would likely increase the regional conflict with North Korea,” says Kang.

With two months to go until election, Park will have her work cut out for her. According to the most recent poll conducted by Research Plus, Park trails Ahn Cheol-soo 52-42 and Moon-Jae-in 48-46.

French Wine Tops Market Depsite Weather

By: Jennifer Halliday
Produced & Edited by:Kaylyn Hlavaty

For decades, France has been on top of the world’s production of wine, competing closely with Italy and Spain. However, the wine industry is changing; almost every wine-producing nation is suffering a severe shortage in materials, prices are increasing across the globe, and competition is emerging in the international market. Despite the odds piled against French vintners, their confidence, and their sales, appear unaffected.

Due to this year’s inclement weather and disease-damaged raw material, France is expecting a 20 percent drop in wine production. The current production forecast is estimated at about 40.6 million hectoliters, down from 50.9 hectoliters in 2011. According to a report from the French Ministry of Agriculture, “all the categories of wine will see their production decline compared to 2011. Production estimates are particularly tricky this year due to the variation in grape weight in most of the vineyards.”

“Grapevines, like any other crop, need a healthy climate to survive,” said Catherine Thevenin, creator of Fuguesen France “they need warm, dry summers and very mild winters, and we haven’t been seeing that kind of weather at all.
    Bordeaux Grapes Courtesy of  non-profit Academic Fair Use
This year, French vineyards were damaged by cold and wet conditions as well as heat waves and droughts near the end of the summer. Grapevines in Burgundy and Beaujolais were destroyed in hailstorms, with surviving crops being ravaged by mildew and funguses.

“What has made this year so hard in particular is the fact that no one vineyard has been spared. Every region has seen at least some damage during this harvest,” said Thevenin.

France is home to several different wine regions and different species of grapes grow in each individual region. Therefore, production of certain wines will drop far more than others. Production in the Champagne region alone is expected to slump 40 percent after damage from frost and “particularly virulent” attacks by mildew and oidium, the ministry said.

Although wine may seem like a luxury commodity, it consistently brings in over seven billion euros annually to France. In 2011, France exported 7.17 billion euros of wine and champagne, accounting for 13 percent of the country’s farm and food exports. The expectation is that a lower yielding grape crop will result in a lower number of wine exports.

“Every month, the estimated [wine] production number seems to go lower and lower,” said Christophe Malvezin, an Agricultural Counselor for the French embassy, “but what we aren’t seeing is a negative effect on our international trade.”
In the first half of this year, wine shipments rose 14 percent to 3.57 billion euros. The main contributors were Americans, who are purchasing French wine and spirits in record amounts. Last year alone, America supplied 18 percent of France’s wine exports. This year’s shortage of supply has caused demand for wine to continue to grow, and French winemakers are taking advantage of it by raising the cost.
Prices on French generic red wine rose ten cents per liter last month. According to Anais Ricome, a winemaker for the Languedoc’s Domaine la Croix Gratiot, an increase in prices will not deter American consumers, who are looking for a more “sophisticated” taste.

“There seems to be a lot of young sommeliers and buyers who are interested in esoteric wines,” said Ricome.

In fact, even the French are amazed at how far American consumers will go to find the best French wine. Samuel Guibert, managing director of Languedoc producer Mas de Damas Gassac, remarked that he has been surprised how well French wines from outside the best-known regions have done in America.

“The rest of France is doing better than ever,” said Guibert, “five years ago you couldn’t fill a room if you had Languedoc wines. The whole emphasis on values is playing in our favor.”

With French wine stocking shelves all across America, American winemakers are trying their hardest to compete. In an attempt to sell more wine in their top export market, American vintners are trying to use chateau labels on their wine.

“What is at stake is the respect for tradition and quality,” said Laurent Gapenne, president of the Federation des Grand Vins de Bordeaux in an interview with The Associated Press.

French chateau bottles are wines made at the estate from grapes belonging to the chateau. The chateau wine tradition dates back centuries and the exclusivity of supplies makes it a more expensive product. However, the U.S. chateau definition is less stringent, including all “vines that have been traditionally used by this wine producer or producer group.”
Courtesy of, an association of wine makers. Academic Fair Use.

“The Americans could create ‘chateau’ wines from grapes from all over and prices would of course be much lower,” said Gapenne.
While some American winemakers may be trying to push French wines out of the market with lower prices, another group of American vintners is turning their attention away from France. The Wine Institute, an association of 1,000 California wineries and businesses, has decided to focus on Asia for its international wine trade.
“Asia is a strong wine market with long-term growth across the board for California wines,” said Linsey Gallagher, International Marketing Director at the Wine Institute, “California wine and its lifestyle and cuisine hold great appeal to consumers in China and our other key Asian markets.”

American wine exports to China provided $62 million last year, a 42 percent increase. However, French vintners do not appear to feel threatened.

“There is no fear from French winemakers about the position of China,” said Malvezin.

French wine exports to China have also jumped, rising 75.5 percent just last year. In fact, China rose two spots to become the third-largest importer of French wine and spirits. Despite rough weather trends and fierce competition, France still remains dominant over the international wine industry, both in market volume and value.

Government of Ecuador Serves as Media Watchdog

By: Rebecca McKinsey
Produced & Edited by: Kaylyn Hlavaty

In September 2010, the National Police of Ecuador rioted over legislation affecting their bonuses and promotions. It was the type of breaking-news event that is a journalist's dream to cover.

And every broadcast station in the country was playing the same thing — a government feed. TV viewers were receiving only one view, and it wasn't an objective one being offered by trained journalists; it was the government's slant on the events.

Journalists that day were disappointed by the TV takeover, but not shocked, said Gail Burkhardt, a reporter for The Monitor inMcAllen, Texas, who worked at a daily newspaper in Ecuador, called HOY during the riots.

“(The reporters) were used to living in a country where the president has that much power over the media,” Burkhardt said.

The relationship between Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and the local media outlets that attempt to cover him is rife with secrecy, tricks and a disregard for freedom of information, journalists say.

Unlike the journalistic system in the United States, which is set up — at its best — to allow journalists to serve as independent journalism watchdogs, the scale between the media and government in Ecuador is much less balanced. Right now, the government has the upper hand, said Jorge Imbaquingo, a journalist with HOY, a daily newspaper in Ecuador.

 HOY journalist, Jorge Imbaquingo. Photo courtesy of Stanford University's 
John S. Knight journalism program. Academic Fair Use.

“The problem is that the media fell into the game and plays the role of victims,” he said.

Correa has been quoted as describing members of the Ecuadorian media in many ways, few of them complimentary. He's called the media “his greatest enemy.” He's described Ecuadorian journalists as “shameless,” “hungry dogs,” “filthy,” “disgusting” and “liars” in public speeches.

Information coming from the president's office is highly controlled, and journalists don't have much choice over the material they can use, Burkhardt said.

“Reporters have to rely on public speeches and interviews the president grants with the government's channel,” she said. “Obviously, they can't ask their own questions to the president.”

The relationship between Correa and the Ecuadorain media is clearly imperfect, said Robertson Vinueza, a coordinator at La Agencia de Noticias Andes (or the AndesNews Agency), a public information company that distributes content on political, economic, athletic, social and cultural issues.

“It's no secret on an international scale that there doesn't exist a positive relationship,” Vinueza said “It is a relationship of harrassment. … Editorialists and opinion leaders say there is no freedom of expression.”

However, with the onset and rapid development of social media, the opinions of state leaders such as Correa are more accessible online, Vinueza said. Correa himself has a Twitter account, @MashiRafael.

In August, Correa spoke to The Guardian journalist Jonathan Watts and said that it had been necessary to rein in media outlets because they had enjoyed too much power for too long.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Photo courtesy of 
Wikimedia Commons. Academic Fair Use.

We won't tolerate abuses and crimes made every day in the name of freedom of speech,” he said. “That is freedom of extortion and blackmail.”

Because of his views toward Ecuadorian media, Correa's decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange caused eyebrows to raise. Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, which publishes secret information and serves as a whistleblower, has become a symbol for freedom of information. However, Imbaquingo said Correa's display of support for Assange is not paralleled in his work with Ecuadorian journalists.

“I think the fact that the government of Ecuador has granted asylum to Julian Assange only proves that it is a ploy for those who do not know the reality of this country, who believe that this government does respect the freedom of information and expression,” Imbaquingo said.

However, Vinueza said Correa's decision to extend asylum to Assange was a diplomatic decision, not a political one.

“As far as asylum, I think that is a right that should be considered for every human being,” Vinueza said.

Still, there's an inconsistency between the asylum granted to Assange and the Correa's availability to members of the media, according to The Committee to Protect Journalists' Carlos Lauría.

“As Ecuador provides support to Assange — an assertive if controversial force in promoting the free flow of information — it would do well to start listening to its critics, domestic and international, and unstop the flow of information right at home,” he said.