Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1:  Political and Human Rights Conditions

Ecuador is a constitutional republic with a population of approximately 13.8 million. In 2006 citizens elected Rafael Correa president in a runoff election that was considered generally free and fair. Correa took office in 2007. A new constitution approved in a referendum became effective in October 2008. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces. While the government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, problems continued in the following areas: isolated unlawful killings and excessive use of force by security forces; killing and abuse of suspects and prisoners by security forces; poor prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; a high number of pretrial detainees; corruption; denial of due process; violence and discrimination against women; discrimination against indigenous persons, Afro-Ecuadorians, and homosexuals; trafficking in persons; commercial sexual exploitation of minors; and child labor.

Part 2:  U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. Government's strategy for advancing democracy and human rights aims to strengthen democratic stability and the effective distribution of power among federal, provincial and municipal authorities by supporting greater citizen participation in government decision-making and efforts to establish new national government agencies under the 2008 constitution. In developing strategic priorities, U.S. officials work closely with government institutions, NGOs, labor unions, and other civil society groups to encourage reforms, implement better monitoring and information systems, and discuss human rights and democracy topics. The United States uses diplomatic engagement, public outreach, foreign assistance programs, and related initiatives to advance strategy objectives. In its public outreach programs, the United States underscores democratic themes and the importance of strong government institutions. U.S. officials actively respond to government requests for technical assistance regarding judicial reform, combating corruption, enforcing labor laws, and other governance topics.

Part 3:  Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The U.S. Government is providing technical assistance and training to the country's Electoral Disputes Tribunal, a new government institution created under the 2008 constitution, and supporting the National Electoral Council's efforts to foster voting rights accessibility for persons with disabilities. The United States also funds domestic NGO observation of municipal and national elections and oversight of legislative activities. The United States also offers technical assistance to the customs authority and other government agencies to combat money laundering and corruption.

To strengthen the capacity of justice sector institutions, U.S. programs reinforce criminal justice professionals' knowledge and skills regarding the accusatorial trial system by providing nationwide civil defense workshops, mock trials, and visits to U.S. courts; training judicial police in criminal investigation techniques through the creation and dissemination of training videos and other materials; and supporting the development of automated criminal case registries and tracking systems. United States assistance has also supported public defender programs with 10 organizations in eight cities for indigent persons and provided legal services for prisoners awaiting sentencing. The legal service clinics in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca now have sustainable financial support from the central government. The United States also supports NGOs who have worked with the National Assembly in drafting the separation of functions within the electoral tribunal and other legal reforms. To support an independent media, U.S. officials in the country host presentations on freedom of the press and annual seminars on journalistic professionalism. The United States also funds six radio programs, transmitted by 10 Kichwa-speaking stations, on citizen rights and responsibilities.

To strengthen respect for human rights within the armed forces, the U.S. Government partners with the local military to send participants to the United States for training that includes components on respect for the rule of law. The United States is providing human rights training to the Defense Ministry's new General Directorate of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Rights. To foster increased respect for the rights of indigenous people, the United States is assisting lowland indigenous federations to strengthen their capacity to secure land rights, manage natural resources, and develop alternative conflict resolution techniques. The U.S. Government is supporting programs for combating child labor, including the innovative Winari project, which engages indigenous communities in participatory planning, budgeting, and monitoring to remove children from exploitive labor and place them in education programs. To improve emergency service responses for persons with disabilities, the United States has funded training and technical assistance to emergency responders in 11 municipalities in four high-risk provinces. United States programs have also supported job placement services, the establishment of Internet centers, and the training of 270 persons with disabilities.

To support government antitrafficking efforts, United States Government assistance focuses on helping the central government and NGOs implement the national antitrafficking plan; enhancing shelter services for victims, including at a shelter in Machala administered by the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion; promoting reintegration of victims in society; raising awareness; and strengthening prosecutions.