Ecuador

Ecuador referendum set to strenghten Correa

Reuters/Guillermo Granja

Ecuador began voting early Saturday on constitutional reforms, including a bullfighting ban, judiciary reform and changes to media ownership.

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The proposals on the ballot pushed by President Rafael Correa include an effort to rein in what he has called the "mediocre and corrupt" media structure in the South American nation.

Correa, in office since 2007, is also seeking to ban but dropped a controversial measure seeking to also ban cockfighting.

Ecuador hosts 400 annual bullfighting events bringing in 35 million euros per year.

Correa also wants to prevent media from investing in banks and vice versa, and to set up a council to regulate violent, sexually explicit and potentially discriminatory content.

Media workers have opposed the move because it would hold individual journalists criminally responsible for such violations.

In March Correa filed multi-million-dollar libel suits against three newspaper executives and three journalists in what has become an escalating war with the media in recent months.

Opponents claim that these cases and the planned media laws are an attempt to stifle free speech.

The referendum includes another proposal by which Correa hopes to revamp what he sees as a "corrupt" and "ineffective" judiciary.

Polling group Investigations and Consult Marketing Solutions said more than 66 per cent of voters are expected to approve the proposals, with around 33 per cent rejecting them.

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