EspañolFreedom of the press is up for debate again in Ecuador, in the wake of two bombings.
On the night of July 29, two leaflet bombs exploded in the city of Guayaquil near the offices of two Ecuadorian newspapers, the private El Universo and public El Telégrafo. Flyers scattered at the scene attributed the attack to the self proclaimed National Liberation Front, whose name was previously unknown to locals.
The first attack in the southern part of the city happened at 10 p.m. and took place near El Universo‘s headquarters. Flyers spotted at the scene carried condemning words against the government and President Rafael Correa, who the National Liberation Front views as an “opportunist dictator.”
“True Ecuadorian revolutionaries, tired of all the waste in official visits that lead nowhere, [tired] of the generalized corruption in state agencies and the pretexts that ‘money must be saved for the revolution,’ in addition to a [foreign minister] who seems to have forgotten his revolutionary upbringing, have held a fraternal meeting in Quito to relaunch the inherent principles of our struggles,” says the flyer signed by “Commander Ramiro.”
The group also assumes responsibility for the July 13 attacks on PAIS Alliance’s headquarters in Quito (Alianza PAIS), which targeted President Correa’s socialist political movement.
“We take full responsibility for several bombings, such as the one suffered at PAIS Alliance’s headquarters, to shake its very foundations and call to attention that it is them who follow an opportunist dictator, who seeks only his benefit … forgetting all poor people.”
At close to 11 p.m., the state newspaper El Telégrafo announced via Twitter that a similar leaflet bomb had exploded near their headquarters parking lot. Although the parking lot was empty at the moment of the explosion, the newspaper reported that part of their personnel remained inside the building.
Tenemos que informar que @el_telegrafo ha sufrido un atentado esta noche: una bomba explotó en la parte exterior del diario en Guayaquil
— OrlandoPérezTeleSUR #FreeAssange (@OrlandoPerezEC) July 30, 2015
“We inform that @el_telefrafo has suffered an attack at night: a bomb exploded outside our newspaper [office] in Guayaquil.”
“We serve the citizenry, and thus strongly reject these type of acts that now target us, [and] tomorrow the same might happen to others,” Pérez said.
— El Telégrafo Ecuador (@el_telegrafo) July 30, 2015
“We reject any act of violence against responsible, ethical, and public journalism.”
Flyers spotted at the bombing site near El Telégrafo‘s headquarters claimed the attack as the National Liberation Front’s first message.
“The first shot has been fired, and we will continue to strengthen our ranks with young members who have been frustrated by wasted time and want to fight for a better Ecuador.”
None of the attacks caused property damage or physical injuries to people in the area. For the moment, the Ministry of the Interior claims the explosives were gunpowder based and appear to have been homemade, with Ecuadorian police in agreement — and no further details are available regarding the culpable group.
However, Attorney General Paúl Ponce has said that the bombings could be classified as terrorist attacks, and that the responsible parties could face a sentence ranging from 10 to 13 years in jail. Further, Ecuadorian Vice President Jorge Glas repudiated the attacks via his social media, stating that the “past shall not return” and that “we must all reject violence.”
Although President Correa has not responded to Wednesday’s bombings, he has demonstrated his disdain for the bombing of Alliance PAIS, stating that “those who are violent shall not prevail.”
Past legal proceedings between Correa and private news organizations have soured the relationship between the executive branch and the media, and Ecuador’s controversial Communications Law has added fuel to the fire. The law has been highly criticized nationally and internationally for “gagging the press” and limiting the public’s access to information.
This year’s the Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders ranks Ecuador at 108 out of 180 countries.
In a conversation with Latin-American journalists on the night of the bombings, President Correa described private media in Ecuador as “mercantilistic, conceited,” saying that nobody believes that “freedom of expression” is an issue in Ecuador anymore, labeling the Inter American Press Association (SIP) as a “syndicate for newspaper owners.”
“The more that the SIP insults us, the more that we feel flattered. They ratify that we are on the right path,” Correa said.
Translated by Franco Bastida. Fergus Hodgson contributed to this article.