Ecuador’s Superintendent of Information and Communication (Supercom) has been dismissed from his post by the national assembly by accusations that point to abuse of power and for presumably receiving kickbacks from GamaTV – a national television station Carlos Ochoa headed between 2009 and 2013.
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One hundred and nineteen of the 120 legislators who voted agreed to remove Ochoa as head of Supercom – Ecuador’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Ochoa, who served at his post since Oct. 2013, was the first Supercom superintendent to carry out the Communications Law (CL) passed that same year.
In February the state comptroller found the former superintendent guilty of taking kickbacks from GamaTV, for which he was penalized $US7,720. Ochoa was also accused of falsifying the communications law he was mandated to defend. The comptroller says that under Ochoa’s direction, Supercom printed laws that the agency modified and then used this version of the law to sanction 11 media outlets. El Comercio reports that such an act comes with a five to seven-year prison sentence.
Ochoa defended himself in front of the national legislators saying, "My crime has been to fulfill the (Communication) law that you all approved." He added, "I haven’t betrayed anyone. I did my duty openly. Can you all say the same? I’ll return to my people … as a simple journalist that can’t be intimidated."
Per Ecuadorian law, the national assembly must also vote on the superintendent’s dismissal. The case was taken up by assemblyman Fabricio Villamar of Creo-SUMA, the main opposition to Ecuador’s ruling party – Alianza PAIS.
Villamar says Ochoa abused his position, administering 1,233 sanctions against Ecuador’s media outlets between 2013 and February of this year, and censured newspapers from running stories on last year’s presidential candidates. Over 400 of the sanctions were accompanied by hefty fines.
Villamar said in front of the assembly yesterday that Ochoa, "abused his power, intimidating and limiting the media’s rights for thinking differently, arbitrarily violating human rights."
Many, including Ochoa’s lawyer, Ramiro Garcia, are saying the superintendent’s ousting was a political act on part of Lenin Moreno of Alianza PAIS to clean house of the high-level officials appointed while his predecessor, Rafael Correa, was in office.