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Ecuador: Netizens Discuss Referendum on Constitution

Last week, President Rafael Correa presented 10 questions in a consulta popular (“popular consultation” [es]), a referendum which amends several areas of the Constitution. The Latin American Herald Tribune explains:

This consulta will consist of 10 questions, ranging from opinions on the treatment of animals and gambling to constitutional changes such [as] support for changes to the Corte Consticional [Constitutional Court] and the proposed controversial Ley Orgánica de Comunicación, Libertad de Expresión y Aceso a la Información Pública [The Organic Law of Communication, Freedom of Expression and Access to Public Information]

The organism in charge of deciding the constitutionality of the process is the recently created Constitutional Court, which still struggles to get recognition as a legally seated body after its automatic self-appointment to the Court back in October 28, 2008. The Constitutional Court has 45 days to qualify the constitutional validity of the questions.

President Correa handed out referendum questions this past Monday to Patricio Pazmiño, the president of Constitutional Court. Photo by Santiago Armas, used under a Creative Commons License.

Reactions from the blogosphere

Correa declared that the main goal is to bolster the justice system's ability to fight crime, but José J. Zurita Andrade of Ces’t la Vie [es], who has read the 10 questions, does not see it that way:

1) No es una consulta que resuelve los temas de inseguridad, como se dijo que era el objetivo inicial; 2) votar NO en la consulta, no es votar en contra de Correa es votar a favor de la libertad individual de escoger, de triunfar o fracasar, de hacer el bien o hacer el mal.

1) It is not a referendum that resolves the issues of insecurity, as the initial goal was said to be; 2) To vote NO on the referendum, is not to vote against Correa, it is about deciding in favor of individual freedom of choice, to succeed or fail, to do good or evil.

Another well know blogger, Pitonizza [es], reflects on several areas of the referendum. She writes about her own experience as an example of why not having social security (IESS [es] by its initials in Spanish) should not be a crime as it is proposed on the referendum:

…Cuando me hice atender en embarazo en el Seguro -por obligación de la empresa en la que laboraba en ese entonces-. No habían ecógrafos, se monitoreaba a mi bebé con una corneta tipo cuernófono picapiedresco. El seguro privado que yo tenía entonces corrió con todos los gastos, venturosamente. Nuevamente, libertad de elección. A quien le parezca bien el IESS que lo elija, y a quien no, no debería ver mermado su sueldo pagando por un seguro que no es de su agrado personal.

…When I became pregnant I received attention under the Social Security plan- as an obligation from the company I worked for at the time- There were no ultrasounds, my baby was monitored with a horn that looked like it came out of The Flinstones. The private insurance that I had then paid all expenses, happily. Again, freedom of choice. People who consider that IESS a good option, let them choose it and those who don't shouldn't see their wages eroded by paying for insurance that they do not like.

In response to a column by Emilio Palacio in the newspaper El Universo [es], blogger Rafael Méndez defends [es] the referendum by clarifying some of Palacio's points. Rafael writes:

- la consulta no es para sacar a correa. Decir o insinuar lo contrario es demostrar mediocridad y mala leche
– efectivamente, se va a modificar la constitución, pero es por temas que tenían cola por culpa de la legislación existente y la constitución anterior”

-the referendum is not meant to take Correa out of office. To say or imply otherwise is to demonstrate mediocrity and anger.
-indeed, it will amend the constitution, but on issues that were queued because of existing legislation and the previous constitution

Ecuadorians don't seem comfortable expressing their thoughts in favor of the referendum, even though 57% of them support it, according to a local pollster. An anonymous reader in the blog Ecuador Ecuatoriano [es] explains why he supports the referendum, in part:

Yo votare SI en la mayoria de las preguntas, no en todas como lo hara la mayoria de los ecuatorianos que NOOOO tienen acceso al internet pero q ya tienen acceso a lo que no tenian antes con Gobiernos en realidad corruptos como los montones de anteriores en la pasada decada

I will vote YES on most questions, not on all of the questions as will the majority of Ecuadorians who DO NOT have Internet access, but who now have access to what they didn't before with actual corrupt governments like the bunch we had in the past decade.

In the same blog another visitor [es] argues that it doesn't matter whether people choose to vote yes or no: Ecuadorians should vote consciously in accordance to their ideals, the readers suggests, because they are all looking to improve individually in order to improve the whole country, and adds:

Creo que el Gobierno ha hecho cosas positivas como ayudar a la educación, a la salud […], el arreglo de carreteras, quitar las tercerizadoras que lo único que hacían es robarle la mitad del sueldo al empleado. Obligar a que los empleadores afilien al IESS a sus empleados (aunque es cierto, el servicio debe mejorar, aún falta pero de poco en poco se lo va logrando con el apoyo de todos los que formarmo este país).

I think the government has done positive things like help in education, health […], fix roads, remove outsourcing that all it did was steal half of the salary of employees [,] [f]orcing employers to affiliate their employees to the IESS (although it is true, the service needs improvement, something has to be done, but bit by bit it gets better with the support of all of us who make this country).

Silvi of Lunas Azules [es] (@silvilunazul) believes that it is unrealistic to completely agree or completely disagree with all the questions. She agrees in part with the referendum, to be precise, with the legislation to protect bulls from suffering in bullfighting:

Para no caer en la contradicción de deberle respeto sólo a quien puede razonar, debemos aceptar que el principio “no hacer sufrir” tiene su base en la capacidad de sentir dolor, no en la de discernir. Siendo así, cualquier especie capaz de sentir dolor tiene intereses, el instinto y el deseo de seguir viviendo y llevar una vida plena, exenta de sufrimiento.

To avoid falling into the contradiction of owing respect only to those who can reason, we must accept that the principle “to not cause suffering” is based on the ability to feel pain, not to discern. Thus, any species capable of feeling pain has interests, the instinct and the desire to continue living and have a full life, free from suffering.

Professor and journalist Ruben Dario Buitron [es] asks a key question on the role of Ecuadorian media in this process: “Take sides or do journalism?”. He writes that it is fundamental that journalists either take a stand on the issue or simply do journalism. Professional media, he argues, should develop a space where all citizens can express themselves, debate, question, and propose ideas. Serene, balanced and fair journalism is what the country needs now, concludes Buitron.

Reactions on Twitter

Ecuadorian Twitter users, through the hashtag #ConsultaEc [es], are also discussing the referendum. Pablo Garzon (@pgarzon), for example, believes,

Al final, RC busca legitimar su popularidad, nuevamente. El pliego de preguntas de la consulta es secundario.

In the end, RC [Rafael Correa] seeks to legitimize his popularity once again. The list of questions for the referendum is secondary.

While journalist Belen (@Belenper) thinks that everything is too complicated; she says she doesn't know anything about law and that the questions are not clear enough as to be a referendum.

Rosa María Torres (@rosamariatorres) says she has already made a decision: she will not go to the polls that day and she would rather pay the fine. In Ecuador, voting is mandatory.

No apoyo la #consultaEC convocada por #Correa para enmendar la Constitución recién aprobada. Creo que no votaré. Pagaré la multa. #Ecuador

I do not support the #consultaEC [referendum] convened by #Correa to amend the Constitution recently approved. I will not vote. I'll pay the fine. # Ecuador

Carla Bonilla (@CarliBonilla) Tweets an equation that seems to be a general concern among Correa's opposition:

Consulta popular + reformas constitucionales = manipulación total

Referendum + constitutional reforms = complete manipulation.

Correa has recognized that carrying out the referendum is going to be an uphill battle [es], and said the Constitution drafted in Montecristi in 2008 “is extremely good, ” but “if we see that something does not work, the faster you correct it, the better.”

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