Now Batting for Chávez

by Jack Fowler

Bolivian socialist caudillo Evo Morales has long been considered Hugo Chávez’s Mini Me. But he has a rival for yanqui-hating in Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, who declared three days of national morning after his “endearing” Venezuelan BFF kicked the bucket last week. I’ve written before (here and here and here) about how Correa has turned Ecuador into the international Left’s favorite place to wage relentless attacks on American corporations. Expect him to step into Chávez’s boots to champion regional anti-Americanism.

Now freshly reelected as president, the University of Illinois–educated economist may prove to be even more dangerous to American interests. Some obvious signs: Correa has clamped down on the press, granted asylum to Julian Assange, closed a U.S. airbase used for anti-drug efforts, and strengthened relations with Iran (defying Western sanctions by buying $400 million of fuel from his pal Ahmadinejad). On the press crackdown, Correa has been so aggressive at suppressing media dissent that the Washington Post attacked him last month in a sharp editorial, charging:

Mr. Correa has intimidated Ecuador’s independent media into virtual silence. Since May, the government closed 11 other radio stations that did not toe its line. A law forbidding biased reporting on political campaigns and allowing dissatisfied candidates to sue over alleged violations forced the media into pallid and skimpy coverage of the alternatives to Mr. Correa, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists — even as government media blatantly ignored the rules.

Journalists who try to oppose Mr. Correa are made to pay. A newsmagazine that urged voters to vote down a referendum giving the government still more control over the media was fined $80,000 for violating the law against electoral propaganda. Last year the Ecuadoran group Fundamedios recorded 173 “acts of aggression” against journalists, including one killing and 13 assaults.

Well, maybe some well-spent oil money may smooth over all that poor press? Last year, Ecuador’s government hired Brown Lloyd James, a notorious American/British PR firm. As the Washington Post reported, BLJ . . .

. . . sounds like a good fit for the job. It has experience, after all, in repping bad-guy governments whose reputation could use more than a little spit and polish. It was Brown Lloyd James that fearlessly flacked for Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad, pitching American media stories – like the profile of Assad to Vogue magazine – even as her husband’s government was siccing its military on dissidents. It also once helped promote the regime of now-deceased Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi! The head of the Public Relations Society of America called the work for Syria and Libya “distinctly against the ethical tenets of modern public relations.”

Even Mother Jones has recoiled over BLJ’s international America-hating clientele.

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