I fully support Mayor Brian Stack’s decision to rescind Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s invitation to visit Union City High School this past Friday. Understandably, Mayor Stack’s stance on this issue has sparked subsequent debate and a flurry of visceral responses by both those in favor and those opposed to the Ecuadorian leader’s visit. As with any discussion worth having, there are often valid points to be made on both sides, but ultimately there comes a time to choose one. Based on the details surrounding this particular incident, I believe that Mayor Stack clearly made the right choice.
Critics of Mayor Stack’s announcement that President Correa would not be welcome in Union City High School have swiftly denounced such a move as “undemocratic.” Their main point of contention is predicated mainly on the fact that President Correa is – after all – a legitimately elected leader. However, at issue is not in what manner President Correa assumed power, but how he has conducted himself ever since.
The reality is that President Correa has opted to become a strategic partner of the self-proclaimed Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, which includes other nations like Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Rather than rising to power through violent revolution, as in the case of Cuba, these savvy neo-autocratic Latin American leaders have managed to utilize democratic systems to effectively perpetuate their indefinite grasp on power. Despite such nuances, President Correa has unapologetically purported himself to be cut from the same political cloth as the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez.
Upon having taken office in January 2007, President Correa immediately moved to introduce newly adopted statutes allowing for the dismissal of members of Congress. By early March, 57 members of Congress were effectively removed from office. One month later, when a Constitutional Tribunal declared that this action was illegal, all nine Judges were dismissed. President Correa has also proceeded to curtail freedom of the press through a combination of incessant lawsuits against journalists and government takeovers of various media outlets. Three newspaper directors and a columnist have been fined and sentenced to prison terms this year alone. Recently, United States ambassador Heather Hodges was officially declared persona non grata and forced to leave the country.
In light of President Correa’s impending visit to Union City, Mayor Stack demonstrated both principled courage and a resolute affirmation that such leaders are not welcome in our public schools by local residents, many of whom have come to the United States fleeing oppressive regimes. Despite the clamor by critics of Mayor Stack’s decision, President Correa and his emissaries were able to secure a private venue in which to hold their event. Indubitably, the intention was never to deny or impede President Correa’s freedom of speech. Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Stack, however, President Correa simply won’t be afforded promotional time at one of our public schools on the local taxpayer’s dime.
Juan Carlos Rojas