Mr. RIVERA. Mr. Speaker, I am gravely concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation, democratic shortcomings, and increased drug trafficking in Ecuador.
Corruption, inefficiency, and political influence have plagued the Ecuadorian judiciary for many years. In a referendum held in May 2011, President Rafael Correa obtained a mandate for constitutional reforms that could significantly increase government powers to constrain media and influence the appointment and dismissal of judges. President Correa continues to weaken the democratic electoral process by appointing government supporters as authorities in all branches of government.
Ecuador's Criminal Code has provisions that restrict freedom of expression and government officials use these laws against the ruling party's critics. The ``desacato'' (lack of respect) clause enables the Ecuadorian government to imprison and prosecute anyone who offends the president or a government official.
President Correa has taken action to strengthen trade relations with Iran, a U.S.- designated State Sponsor of Terrorism. Iran has reduced tariffs for seven Ecuadorian products as well as signed an agreement to supply oil products during 2012 and 2013 to Ecuador. President Correa has expressed his desire to continue trading with Iran and bilateral visits between Correa and Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad occur frequently.
With its location between the two largest cocaine producing countries in the world, Peru and Colombia, Ecuador is a major transit country for narcotics. Ecuador's porous borders and increased participation in the drug trade makes the country very vulnerable to organized crime. Counternarcotics cooperation with the United States is and should remain a major focus of U.S. assistance to Ecuador.
Recently I met with Sociedad Ecuatoriana del Exterior (SEDE), an organization dedicated to fostering freedom and democracy in Ecuador and promoting the wellbeing of Ecuadorian-American citizens. I am asking for unanimous consent to submit for the Record the attached letter. This letter provides a detailed outline of the Ecuadorian government's failure to protect the fundamental human rights of its people.
It is critical that we pay close attention to the actions of the Ecuadorian government as they silence political opposition, rig elections, and strengthen ties with Iran.
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