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Ecuador May 26 , 2005
H.E. Alfredo Palacio
Office of the President
Palacio de Gobierno
Garcia Moreno 1043
Republic of Ecuador
Fax: (011.693.2) 580-735
The Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) wishes to express its solidarity with Ecuadorian journalists and to condemn the widespread threats, sabotage and violence that have made their lives and work so dangerous.
We welcome this week’s assurances by Interior Minister Mauricio Gándara, reported in the Ecuadorian press, that Paco Velasco will be assured “very personalized” protection if he returns to Ecuador. As you must know, Velasco, head of La Luna radio, fled Ecuador on May 3 after receiving numerous threats against his life. Radio La Luna , which campaigned vigorously against former President Lucio Gutiérrez, was knocked off the air twice by acts of sabotage during the rioting that preceded the removal of Gutiérrez.
The violence seems to come from both supporters and opponents of ex-President Gutierrez. The latter appear to have been responsible for roughing up a crew from the TV station, Ecuavisa, and a correspondent of El País of Madrid . While the death on April 19 of the Chilean photographer, Julio Augusto García , after inhaling tear gas during a riot can not be attributed to partisan violence, it does emphasize the dangers of practicing journalism in Ecuador today.
Mr. President, we hope that your government will not only protect journalists from violence — and prosecute those who commit or threaten violence — but that you will also turn back the efforts of the previous government to control Ecuador ‘s press. Criminal penalties should never be sought against journalists who criticize public figures, as happened last year in the case of Rodrigo Fierro of El Comercio, who criticized a former president.
The Overseas Press Club of America will welcome evidence that your government wishes to restore Ecuador ‘s commitment to a free press.
Freedom of the Press Committee
Hon. Andres Teran Parral
Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador
2535 15th Street, NW
Washington , DC 20009
Fax: (202) 667-3482
The Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Ecuador to the United Nations
866 United Nations Plaza , Room 516
New York , NY 10017
Fax: (212) 935-1835
Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Ecuador
Embassy of the United States of America
Patria and 12 de Octubre Avenues
Fax: (011.593.2) 250-2052
(OR: U.S. Embassy – Ecuador
APO AA 34039)