As a lawyer in Ecuador, 28-year-old Mauricio Alarcón was inspired to commit his life to the defense of human rights after he worked on a case representing parents who had lost their daughter to medical malpractice.
“The dedication of her mother to achieve justice,” he said, “fighting against abuses of power and the lack of independence in the judiciary system—without any positive result—introduced me full- time to the world of promoting and defending human rights.”
With his background in law and his commitment to the country’s democratization efforts, Mauricio has become a vocal opponent of President Correa’s increasingly authoritarian rule. As the project director of NED grantee Fundamedios, he regularly reports on government crackdowns on independent media and appears on national television to educate the public about human rights violations.
“In recent years, freedom of the press has been at risk in Ecuador due to the frequent intimidation of journalists, communicators and media, from authorities and citizens,” Alarcón said.
The most severe example of Correa’s efforts to silence the media was the personal libel case brought by President Correa in 2011 that resulted in a three-year sentence and a $40 million fine for three executives and an editor of the critical newspaper El Universo.
Though Correa later pardoned the defendants, the questionable judicial proceedings and the precedent set by the lawsuit triggered a serious decline in freedom of expression and in Ecuador’s media institutions. Subsequent measures, including a recently-approved and highly restrictive media law, have further contributed to a culture of fear and greater self-censorship.
“I will have inspiration to continue working for the cause of human rights as long as my country has journalists prosecuted for reporting, citizens persecuted for giving an opinion, and social leaders arrested for protesting,” he said.
In addition to his work protecting freedom of the press, Mauricio helps citizens monitor the legislature as the executive director of NED grantee Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo.
“My work is motivated by the hope of a country where rights and freedoms are fully respected…”
As the country’s first legislative watchdog, the organization engages a range of student volunteers, educates citizens about the fundamentals of the legislative process, and monitors and reports on legislators’ performance, key legislative debates, and the independence of the legislative branch. For example, the group’s Legislative Observatory documented that a majority of legislation passed in 2012 was initiated by the executive branch, which helped spur a national debate on the questionable separation of the executive and legislative branches.
“My work is motivated by the hope of a country where rights and freedoms are fully respected,” he said. “I’m continually inspired by the strength of the youth who seek deep changes to live in a real democracy.”
Mauricio’s vocal criticism has not made him popular with Ecuador’s current government; Fundamedios has been the target of government attacks and Mauricio has been a target of threats and harassment. Nevertheless, he believes his work for media freedom and government accountability is worth the risk, and is resolute in his drive to fight repression and create a more democratic Ecuador.
Entrevista Mauricio Alarcón
Entrevista a Mauricio Alarcón – Abogado Fundamedios