Ecuador revokes visa of critical Cuban–Ecuadorian journalist

Alondra Santiago. Screenshot from video “Canción de la semana | ¡Salve, oh patria!” (Song of the week | Hail, O Fatherland!) from her YouTube channel IngoEc. Fair use. “Hail, O Fatherland” is Ecuador's national anthem.

In the early hours of June 25, 2024, Cuban journalist Alondra Santiago took to X (formerly Twitter), to share the the notification she received from the Ministry of External Affairs and Human Mobility. The Ministry revoked her visa which had allowed her to live in Ecuadorian territory for 19 years. The notification was signed by Vice Minister Alejandro Dávalos.

The Foreign Ministry warned her that she has five days to return to her country of origin. The ministry made the decision to revoke her visa based on two reports — one from the Ministry of the Interior and the other from the Foreign Ministry — reports unknown to the affected person, as reported by her lawyer to the media.

Santiago described it as an “attack on the freedom of the press/expression.” Furthermore, she warned that she would not remain silent.

What was once fake news, today became reality.
I received a notification of “visa revocation” from the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

This is undoubtedly an attack on freedom of the press/expression. This government wants to silence me at all costs but I will NOT remain silent.

Alondra Santiago was trending on social media at the end of May for criticizing President Daniel Noboa's government on her YouTube channel, mentioning the lyrics of the Ecuadorian national anthem.

Hail, oh country!
I haven't made a song in a while.
Well there you go, a lot to say, a lot to sing.

The song goes like this:

Salve oh patria, ¡mil veces!
Oh patria (…)
Se están secuestrando y la delincuencia no para.
Mientras Lavinia a cortar manglares manda (…)
Mientras una madre llora porque su hijo murió.
Verónica Abad no existe para este Gobierno nefasto
Que ha hecho todo lo posible por eliminarla hace rato (…)
Los primeros los hijos del suelo (…)

Hail oh fatherland, a thousand times!
Oh homeland (…)
They are kidnapping and crime does not stop.
While Lavinia orders to cut mangroves (…)
While a mother cries because her son died.
Verónica Abad does not exist for this disastrous government
Which has done everything possible to get rid of her for a long time (…)
The first the children of the soil (…)

The song mentions the high levels of violent death and, while the government has decreed a permanent state of emergency, it has not been able to curb the violence. Moreover, the song criticizes the president's wife, Lavinia Valbonesi, for felling trees in a protected zone in Manglar Alto in the province of Santa Elena, to build a real estate project by the company VINAZIN S.A., of which Valbenosi is the principal shareholder.

Combining the lyrics of the national anthem to criticize the government revived the political dispute between President Noboa and Vice President Verónica Abad, who he decided to send to Israel as an Ambassador of Peace in the middle of a war.

This prompted university professor William Brito to accuse her of slander for using the lyrics of the national anthem to criticize the national government. He then filed a complaint to the Prosecutor's Office.


Ecuadorian citizens denouncing to the Guayas Prosecutor's Office the actions of the Cuban foreigner, Alondra Santiago, against the National Anthem.

In addition, the journalist was attacked on social networks. Former vice president (1992–1995) Alberto Dahik requested that she be “deported.”

She comes from Cuba where if she opens her mouth they put her in jail. They give her a visa, and she must say what her activity is: either student, or work, or investor. However, she offends all the Ecuadorian people by grotesquely using the national anthem to insult the country. Deport her!

The notification from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility that Santiago shared on social media mentions there is a “report with acts that threaten public security and the structure of the state,” a report that has been classified as “secret.” Her lawyer, Carlos Soria, has mentioned that the Foreign Affairs Ministry will have to prove the basis for revoking the visa in court.

For its part, the Ministry of the Interior issued a statement denying all responsibility. It states that the Strategic Intelligence Center is responsible for the issuance of the “document classified as SECRET.”

However, for constitutional lawyer Santiago Machuca, it is a clear violation of due process that the journalist was not allowed to defend herself before being notified. On X, he explains that “If they were capable of violating the right of asylum and the inviolability of diplomatic headquarters, they are capable of anything.”

Likewise, lawyer Pedro Páez stated that the withdrawal of the journalist's visa is a violation of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and human mobility.

This is not the first time this has happened in the country. In 2015, the government of Rafael Correa revoked the visa of French–Brazilian journalist Manuela Picq when she was present at demonstrations against the government of that time. The government justified the decision by arguing that the journalist's visa had “expired.”

The reactions of solidarity in favor of Alondra Santiago on social networks were immediate. Mónica Velásquez, a journalist from the digital media La Posta, described the decision as “an act of censorship of freedom of expression.”

Journalist Alondra Santiago has been notified of the revocation of her Ecuadorian visa, after questioning the management of President Daniel Noboa's government.

In the document the Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentions a “report in which it is determined…

The vice mayor and councilor of Guayaquil, Blanca López, said that the revocation of the Cuban journalist's visa is “arbitrary,” and political analyst Mauro Andino said that the Foreign Ministry's decision is “a discriminatory act that destroys freedom of expression.” Teleamazonas journalist Fausto Yépez described the act of withdrawing Alondra Santiago's visa as “authoritarianism.”

Columnist of the digital media Primicias, María Sol Borja, warned that the ministry's decision is “a brutal abuse of power.” This journalist's program “Los Irreverentes” (The Irreverents) was closed down at the beginning of June 2024. It was broadcast on the private channel RTU and directed by her, Fabricio Vela, and José Luis Cañizares. The journalists were critical of the Government of Daniel Noboa. The program had to go off the air due to “pressure from the government (Noboa),” said journalist María Sol Borja, in an article published by the digital media Primicias.

Los Irreverentes closed. It seems that the authorities of the new country, those of the “change,” could not stand it💅. I was the first to use platform shoes, but I could share them. He just wants to attack us this way. Luckily these are not the 60s and the opinion will continue to live on social media and other spaces.😚 [Editor's note: Cañizares refers to the “platform shoes” worn by Noboa on May 24 when reporting to the nation at the National Assembly].

Furthermore, organizations and human rights defenders, such as the Alliance of Organizations for Human Rights, the Popular Legal Action Collective, and the Periodistas Sin Cadenas (Reporters Without Chains) Foundation, have rejected the arbitrary decision of the National Government against Santiago.

Controversy around President Daniel Noboa

It is not the first time that the Noboa government has been criticized for what is considered authoritarian practices and arbitrary censorship since it assumed power in November 2023, arriving with a campaign discourse of renewal and youth to improve the country.

However, his decisions have been criticized nationally and internationally. For example, on April 5, 2024, the police invaded the Mexican Embassy in the city of Quito in order to arrest the former vice president of Ecuador, Jorge Glas, who already had been granted political asylum. But the Prosecutor's Office accused him of alleged embezzlement and launched an investigation.

In an interview published by journalist Jon Lee Anderson in The New Yorker, Noboa confessed that the decision to invade the Embassy was his alone. This violates international laws and drew criticicism by the OAS and Latin American countries.

Noboa came in wearing a red-and-white athletic shirt bearing the logo for Pilsener, a ubiquitous Ecuadorian beer. Chuckling, he said, ‘It’s been a crazy few days.’ He explained his decision to arrest Glas. ‘The option of entering the Embassy was always in my head over the last couple of months,’ he said. He told me that Attorney General Salazar had heard from witnesses in the Metástasis case that Glas was leading operations aimed at undermining his government. ‘He’s a very dark figure,’ Noboa said.

Last April, more than 20 public officials and the former minister of energy were reported to the Prosecutor's Office by the government for alleged sabotage in a so-called confidential investigation. President Noboa's ex-wife, Gabriela Goldbaum, also faces around 49 legal proceedings against her filed by her ex-husband. She has publicly denounced him for abusing the state power he exercises over her.

On the other hand, there is the case of Verónica Abad, Noboa's vice president mentioned in Alondra Santiago's song. In addition to being sent to Israel, the Ecuadorian justice system placed her son in preventive detention for alleged influence peddling last March. Diana Jácome, the representative of the executive in two public companies (Medios Públicos and Correos del Ecuador), suggested in statements given to the news outlet Notimundo that he was sent to a maximum security prison in order to force Vice President Verónica Abad to resign.

After revoking Santiago's visa, the Noboa government broadcast a patriotic video on the national television network in prime time. The video begins with the phrase “Out of respect for the country,” then the national anthem plays and the video concludes with the government's slogan: “The New Ecuador Solves.”

For observers like journalist Menéndez, the video contains an ironic joke:

They criticized this (Alondra's anthem), and they did this… Use the national anthem to promote themselves and say “out of respect for the country” and that the “new Ecuador solves” (with an ironic laugh at the end).

Who advises them? What message do they want to give us?

Read more: Despite what we think, the press does not live in a free paradise in Ecuador

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