QUITO – Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Saturday that he will not withdraw his legal action against the daily El Universo, convicted last week for a column that the head of state considers slanderous.
Ecuadorian Judge Juan Paredes last Wednesday sentenced three directors of the daily El Universo and its ex-opinion editor Emilio Palacio to three years in prison and a fine of $40 million to be paid to Correa.
“We’re making history, my friends, we won’t retreat – there’s no room for magnanimity in the face of such miserable humanity. After asking for pardon, wanting to make things right, being conciliatory, they’re defying us once again,” Correa said, referring to recent declarations by the accused.
In his weekly radio and TV report on government activities, recorded the day before but aired on Saturday, the president repeated that the sanction is not against freedom of speech but against slander.
The newspaper’s deputy director, Cesar Perez, said Friday that neither the directors nor the daily have the $40 million that the court demands they pay Correa in compensation.
Correa sued the directors of El Universo and Palacio for a column written by the latter.
The opinion piece said that the president ordered security forces to “open fire as needed and without previous warning on a hospital full of civilians and innocent people” on Sept. 30, 2010, when a police uprising occurred.
Correa, who denied that version, was held captive that day by rebellious police officers and was rescued in an operation carried out by loyal forces amid an intense shootout.
The president insisted in Saturday’s report that the judge’s verdict was correct, while numerous national and international organizations stood by the newspaper and considered the court’s decision an attack on freedom of speech.