Sat, May 21, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Voters say ‘yes’ to reforms in win for Ecuador’s president

AFP, QUITO

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa won a vote on 10 reforms, including controversial measures to regulate Ecuador’s judiciary and news media, according to a final count on Thursday of the May 7 vote.

The “yes” vote won between 44.9 and 50.4 percent for nine of the measures, compared with 38.8 to 42.5 percent for the “no,” according to results posted on the Internet by the Ecuadorian National Electoral Council.

The 10th proposal, to ban the killing of bulls during bullfights, was set to be adopted in the 127 districts where it was approved, including Quito, but not in 94 others, according to the council.

The opposition criticized the moves to regulate the media and judiciary as a power grab and a threat to freedom of expression.

Other reforms include a ban on casinos, an obligation to sign up to the social security system and the creation of a crime of “unlawful private enrichment.”

The results could still be contested and may not be applied for several months.

Like his regional ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Correa has used referendums to increase power in the presidency, but the vote was closer than he had expected.

The media divestment effort is aimed in part at preventing media from investing in banks, and vice versa. The 2008 constitution passed during Correa’s term has already barred banks from owning media outlets.

Correa also aims to put into place a body that could regulate media content by setting standards for “responsibility.”

Media workers have expressed outrage at a reform because it would hold individual journalists criminally responsible for such violations — and critics maintain the move was a veiled attempt to muzzle dissent.

The referendum would authorize a council to regulate violent, sexually explicit and potentially discriminatory content.

The referendum also included a proposal to revamp what Correa sees as a “corrupt” and “ineffective” judiciary.

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