The U.S. State Department issued a statement on Thursday criticizing the Ecuadorean government’s decision to close media watchdog Fundamedios.
“We are very concerned about the increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association in Ecuador, particularly the Ecuadorean government’s September 8 decision to initiate legal steps intended to dissolve Fundamedios, a non-governmental organization that monitors and defends press freedom,” Spokesman John Kirby said in a statement issued Thursday.
The Ecuadorean government has yet to issue an official statement responding to the U.S. Statement Department remarks.
The Quito based organization was informed of its closure earlier this week after the government accused the organization of failing to stick to its mandate by inserting itself into the country’s politics.
Fundamedios is partly funded by USAID, receiving a US$300,000 donation in 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Adam E. Namm told El Telegrafo.
This corresponds with claims issued by the Ecuadorean Secretary for International Cooperation (SETECI), alleging that USAID, which recently closed its operations in the country, allocated 70 percent of its financial assistance toward international and domestic NGOs over a six-year period from 2007-2013
In recent years, Ecuador has introduced new guidelines for foreign and domestic NGOs operating within the country, which have allowed the Ecuadorean government to regulate and better understand the type of assistance the country is receiving.
In June 2011, President Rafael Correa signed an executive decree to ensure greater transparency of NGOs operating within the country.
The presidential decree requires all NGO’s to register and submit an annual report that documents their activities and a summary of the organization’s financial details.
The change in public policy with regards to international cooperation is also reflected by the country’s newly introduced National Agenda for International Cooperation, which outlines the key priorities in the area of foreign assistance.
Meanwhile, similar efforts to impose stricter policies regarding NGO activity have been carried out in several Latin American countries such as Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela, where foreign nongovernmental organizations have repeatedly engaged in political activities, often in support of opposition groups with questionable goals.