Many people feared that President Rafael Correa would unleash a witch hunt in Ecuador after the police uprising of September 30th that his government quickly dubbed a “coup attempt.” As my colleague Gabriela Calderón wrote a few days after those incidents, the government’s narrative that Correa was kidnapped in a hospital by rogue elements of the national police has been severely undermined by several witnesses who claim that Correa stayed voluntarily in the building and was in control of the situation the entire time. Mary O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal also mentioned this in her weekly column.
One of these critical witnesses is César Carrión, director of the hospital where Correa was supposedly being held against his will. Carrión had not been implicated by the authorities in the police riots—until last week. On October 21st Carrión declared in a special report aired on CNN en Español that Correa hadn’t been kidnapped or faced any threat. A couple of days later, Correa lambasted Carrión on national TV, calling him a “conspirator” and warning him that “he better know who he’s dealing with, I’m the president and you’re my subordinate… you can’t make your boss look like a liar.” Carrión was fired from his post soon afterward, and yesterday he was arrested for “attempting to murder Rafael Correa.”
Many other people, including journalists, who dared to question the government’s dubious claim that there was a coup attempt (for example, the military high command gave its full support to the president the day of the supposed coup) have also been harassed by the authorities. However, some government officials apparently didn’t get the memo of the official coup attempt allegation. On the day of the uprising, Doris Soliz, minister of Political Coordination told CNN en Español that there wasn’t a coup under way. Also that day, Vinicio Alvarado, secretary of Public Administration denied on public TV the possibility of a coup, saying that the protest was simply “a specific demand from a government institution.”
International observers have also raised many doubts about the seriousness of Correa’s coup allegation. But what seems clear now is that the Ecuadorian government is dead serious in its efforts to use the incident to persecute political opponents and independent media. Those who challenge the official narrative, face the consequences.