As Ecuador’s Presidential campaign picks up steam, so do the false claims made by candidates

Published on December 16, 2020

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A couple of weeks ago, we ran an article on Ecuador Verifica, an initiative in the country that brings together 14 media, 9 civil society organizations and 7 universities. Its objectives are to combat misinformation, verify the veracity of the speeches of the candidates (and their supporters or detractors) for the 2021 Ecuadorian election, and to develop tools that allow citizens to decide which candidates to support based on accurate information.

It is a collaborative effort, where all the groups involved contribute from different fronts to combat misinformation and promote digital literacy.

Ecuador Verifica has the support of international cooperation organizations committed to the fight against disinformation such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI), which, in coordination with multiple and diverse organizations, the media and academia come together to offer tools to differentiate what is true, from what is false.

Our intent was to only update our readers on the new items that Ecuador Verifica released under our “Updates” section of The Cuenca Dispatch.

However, as the campaign for the Presidency revs up, the amount of disinformation that is being published means that Ecuador Verifica is releasing updates daily. The stories that they have verified or proved false in the last week, follow.

Andrés Arauz: “Twitter post about Chávez is fake.”

This statement is false.

Andrés Arauz, a candidate for the Presidency of Ecuador is asking people not to share a post that appeared on the La Verdad informa Ec Twitter account, a group that regularly promotes Arauz and former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.

However, the post in question was made by Arauz on his own official Twitter account on March 11, 2013.

In the post, Arauz wrote, “”Chávez, a lot of vision in monetary policy: he repatriated his gold, promoted Sucre, constituted the Bco del Sur.”

Arauz’s post came five days after the death of the former president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez. During his government, Chávez took measures such as the withdrawal of gold reserves in European banks, the promotion of the Bank of the South, and other ideas of South American integration.

Between 2013 and 2015, under Correa, Arauz held positions at the Central Bank of Ecuador and was undersecretary of the National Secretariat for Planning and Development (Senplades).

Former President Rafael Correa: “Banco del Pacifico promotes financial panic.”

The statement is false.

On December 9, 2020, former President Rafael Correa published a recording on his Twitter account that claimed that the“Banco del Pacifico promotes financial panic,” through advertisements in the media. The information is false because it does not correspond to a message made by the bank.

In the audio published by the former president, as his proof of Banco del Pacifico’s promotion of financial panic, Correa references a message broadcast by Radio Atalaya 603 AM, in which an announcer is heard mentioning Banco del Pacífico followed by this message: “Putting dollarization at risk is putting your purchasing power at risk. It is what you can afford to buy. Without dollarization, Ecuador would be in a situation very similar to Venezuela. There the basic salary is less than a dollar a month. In Ecuador we do not want the basic salary of Venezuela. In Ecuador we take care of dollarization.”

Radio Atalaya 680 am immediately denied that the campaign for dollarization was paid for by Banco del Pacífico. In its statement, it says, “The advertising mentioned that talks about the benefits of dollarization, plays on several radio stations in the country, and has been paid for by another client.”

Likewise, Banco del Pacífico officially denied being the promoter or financier of the campaign on dollarization.

Unattributed, linked with comments against Andrés Arauz and Yaku Perez : “THANKS TO SOCIALISM: ARGENTINES EMIGRATE TO PERU […] 1 MILLION ARGENTINES arriving in PERU. THIS IS THE TRUTH.”

This statement is false.

This capitalized and bolded statement accompanied a photo of a mass migration of people, supposed to be Argentinians crossing into Peru.

In fact, the photo in question was taken in Slovenia in 2015.

A reverse search of the viral image on Google led to two articles in British newspapers. Both indicate that it corresponds to a photo taken in 2015 by Jeff J. Mitchell, a photographer for the Getty Images agency.  Mitchell told The Guardian that he spent “most” of the summer of 2015 covering the route of migrants at the point where they entered Slovenia.

Much of the Mitchell material captured in 2015 is available on the Getty platform and shows the situation of refugees in Balkan countries such as Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia.

In fact, the viral photograph appears on the image bank Getty published on October 23, 2015, with a detailed description of migrants who walk escorted by police from Rigonce to Brezice, Slovenia, near the border with Croatia.

A search with the phrase “Argentine migrant caravan Peru” yielded no results on Google. Nor were analysts’ forecasts or statements that project a similar number of migrants from Argentina to Peru found.

In conclusion, it is false that the photograph of a caravan of people shows Argentines emigrating to Peru. Actually, the photo was taken in Slovenia in 2015. The data of the numbers of migrants from Argentina to that country is not correct either.

Ximena Peña: “The small sector, the medium sector, the sector of the popular and solidarity economy, which are the most vulnerable sectors of our economy and which, ironically, represent 64% of employment in the country should be promoted.”

This statement is mostly true.

Presidential candidate for Alianza País, Ximena Peña, made this statement in an interview with Diario El Comercio, during which she discussed her proposals for the economic reactivation of the country.

What Peña said, is not quite completely true though, since the percentage given only corresponds to the Popular and Solidarity Economy (EPS) sector.

The percentage is stated in the National Development Plan 2013 – 2017, in its Objective 8: “Consolidate the social and solidarity economic system, in a sustainable way.” The document indicates that in the percentage of employed persons nationwide by economic subsystem, the popular economy, represents 64%. However, there is still no official and updated statistical record of EPS job creation.

The Directory of Companies measures the generation of employment according to the size of the companies. The latest report indicates that small businesses account for 18.27% of employment in the country and the median, 17.21%; in other words, these two sectors generate 35.47% of employment in the country. Together with microenterprises they represent 60.45%.

César Montúfar: “Child malnutrition has grown instead of decreasing (…) one in three children (are) in this situation.”

This statement is mostly true.

César Montúfar, presidential candidate for the Concertación alliance, said in an interview with Diario El Comercio that “child malnutrition has increased instead of decreasing, it is a tragedy that Ecuador cannot afford, that you have one in three children in that situation, compromising the future generation of millions of Ecuadorians.”

It is true that child malnutrition has grown in recent years, but the ratio of 1 in 3 children only refers to children under two years of age. Therefore, the information given by the candidate is imprecise.

The latest “National Survey of Health and Nutrition (Ensanut) 2018 of the Ecuadorian Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC) indicates that chronic child malnutrition for children under two years of age went from 24.8% to 27.2% (approximately 1 in 3) at the national level, between 2014 and 2018. In other words, it grew 2.4 percentage points.

In the rural sector, the indicator increased from 29.4% to 30.5% in the same period. And, in the urban sector, from 22.3% to 25.4%.

In the case of children under 5 years of age, chronic malnutrition fell 0.9 points between 2014 and 2018 at the national level, from 23.9% to 23% (1 in 4), according to the same survey.

For INEC, neither value is statistically significant.

In the rural sector, the indicator for children under 5 years of age decreased from 31.9% to 28.7% in the same period, a significant variation of 3.2 points. On the other hand, in the urban sector it rose from 19.7% to 20.1%.

INEC defines malnutrition as a pathological state that results from “a diet deficient in one or more essential nutrients or from poor assimilation of food,” based on the glossary of terms from the World Health Organization. The institution has three classifications: acute (weight-for-height deficiency), chronic (height-for-age delay), and global (weight-for-age deficiency).

Ecuador Verifica sought comment from Montúfar to clarify what type of malnutrition he was referring to in his statement but did not obtain a response.

Unattributed: “Lasso said that health and education are not essential for the State, we must privatize.”

This statement is mostly true.

A video posted on Facebook claims that Guillermo Lasso said in an interview that: “Health and education are not essential for the State, we must privatize.”

Lasso’s communication team says that this statement is false in the context of its presidential proposals, but Ecuador Verifica determined that Lasso has said something similar to this in previous years.

The post was found in a support group for Andrés Arauz, presidential candidate for the UNES movement. The publication took as its source and video that circulates on YouTube, made by the Dr. Macías (Ecuador). In the video, claims are made that Lasso, the presidential candidate for the CREO-PSC alliance, made those statements. However, the information does not have any source or the voice of the politician referring to this issue.

Ecuador Verifica reached out to the author of that video for comment but did not receive a response. Different videos have circulated from this YouTube account that we have verified to be false, such as one that announces an alleged increase in gas, which has not happened.

Lasso however did refer to this issue in 2018. In an interview with Teleamazonas in October of that year—about the government’s intention to concession state companies—Lasso said: “The time has come to optimize the Ecuadorian State and obviously when we talk about companies, we talk of things that are not essential for the function of the State, such as the case of education, health, internal security or external security.”

Ecuador Verifica monitored previous Lasso interviews on media such ae Telesur and Hora 25, but the proposal to privatize education was not found in any interviews from either station.

On October 14th of this year, Lasso responded to one of the followers of his Twitter account in relation to the issue of education and reiterated in his speech his intention to keep it free.

In the Lasso’s government plan, he maintains that if he becomes president, reforms will be proposed to the entire educational system “to achieve a diverse and non-centralized educational system.” In the document there is no proposal to privatize education.

In addition, Lasso’s campaign team told Ecuador Verifica that its proposal is to administer public resources to increase investment in public education, and that the educational system will be reformed to achieve a free, quality public educational system that will be inclusive.

Unattributed: “Lasso and Nebot propose that citizens carry weapons to combat crime.”

This statement is true.

A post is circulating on Facebook in which presidential candidates Jaime Nebot and Guillermo Lasso appear. In the post it states that Nebot and Lasso have as a proposal for citizen security to carry weapons to combat crime.

On December 1, Jaime Nebot and Guillermo Lasso held a press conference to explain the citizen security proposal of the PSC-CREO alliance. Nebot, the representative of the PSC, pointed out that the government must take measures against crime and that one of its proposals to combat it is to support the National Police with the use of firearms within the legal framework.

“The citizen who, complying with the requirements of the law that goes through psychological tests, training, behavior and antecedents, wants to have or carry a firearm, that must be authorized,” Nebot emphasized.

In response to Nebot’s statement, presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso said, “I agree with your words and from the next legislature, I am sure that the assembly members of the 6th and 21st together, we will work on all the necessary legal reforms to protect the citizens from criminals. ”

Nebot clarified that within the law, the human rights of criminals will be respected, but that within these rights, there is not impunity and that the community also has the same human rights.

The government plan of the PSC-CREAO alliance, says that it is the responsibility of the State to protect the life and integrity of citizens against attacks by third parties. For this reason, they state that upon reaching the presidency, they will define security policies to turn them into state policies that are sustainable over time. However, within this government plan the authorization of the use of weapons by citizens is not explicitly mentioned.

The carrying of arms is also a proposal supported by the presidential candidate for the Patriotic Society party (PSP), Lucio Gutiérrez. Through his Twitter account, he stated that he will take up the law to carry arms in order to combat crime and hit men.  Gutiérrez stated in another interview that in his government (2003-2005) the law to carry arms was in force. He pointed out that he conducted a study on those who used weapons during that period and that “no one misused them.”

Unattributed: “The Ecuadorian Union government plan is, in part, a copy of Wikipedia.”

This statement is true.

On social networks a post has become viral that says that 22 of 36 pages of the government plan of the Ecuadorian Union movement, are copied off of Wikipedia. According to this post, 61% of the government plan found on the website of the National Electoral Council (CNE) is plagiarized.

Ecuador Verifica reviewed the government plan of the Ecuadorian Union movement that is found on the National Electoral Council (CNE) website and found that it has entire fragments taken from a Wikipedia page that contains general information on the history and political and economic situation of Ecuador.

The government plan of this movement consists of 36 pages, of which about 23 pages are copied off of the Wikipedia website. In other words, 63.8% of this plan is a copy of the aforementioned site.

In anon December 4th, the presidential candidate for the movement, Giovanny Andrade said that it is true that the government plan has some fragments copied from Wikipedia. In addition, Andrade stated that when reviewing this plan, it is proposed as a descriptive plan of what is happening in the country and that for this reason it is not a copy of this site.

In the same interview, the candidate from the Ecuadorian Union stressed “the information must be taken as it is, and it is not relevant information.” He also said that to carry out this plan they had the advice of a person who is part of the political movement and that when presenting the government plan to the CNE and uploading it on its platform, the page where the information from that plan was presented, omitted it had been taken from Wikipedia.

“When you are not a politician, you let yourself be guided and that is why you make mistakes,” Andrade insisted. He also pointed out that he will try to change the government plan that is in the CNE, because those are not his proposals and, according to the candidate, “he did it suddenly(upload the government plan with a copy of Wikipedia) for CNE reasons.”

Due to these events, the Ecuadorian Union movement requested on November 30th to remove its presidential candidate, Giovanny Andrade, from the electoral ballot. However, the CNE responded that said request is inadmissible.

In addition, César Rodríguez, coordinator of the movement, stated in a press conference on December 10th that he is withdrawing his support for the candidate. He also added that the Electoral Promotion Fund will not be used to make propaganda with that candidacy.

He also said that it has not been able to validate the university degrees in foreign or national institutions that confirm the studies of the presidential candidate, Giovanny Andrade.

In his LinkedIn profile, Andrade listed that he is an expert in mining administration. Although, Ecuador Verifica has searched for these titles in the Secretariat of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (Senesct) and no record of Adrade having studied this subject is found.

El Sapo Orense: “Carlos Zambrano attended 22 of 231 sessions of the National Assembly and did not present bills between 2009 and 2013.”

This statement is true.

Information circulating on social networks about Carlos Víctor Zambrano Landín, was an assemblyman for Alianza País between 2009 and 2013, and is now hoping to return to the legislature for the Centro Democrático movement. The social media post says that Zambrano only attended 22 sessions of the 231 that were held in his term and that he did not present any bills.

The information comes from the Facebook account of El Sapo Orense, and shows a screenshot of the website of the Legislative Observatory reflecting the legislative activity of Zambrano between 2009 and 2013.

The Legislative Observatory, which keeps a meticulous record of all the activities of the National Assembly and legislators, shows that indeed, Zambrano only attended 22 sessions and that he did not present any bill during his term as an Assemblyman.

The National Assembly, on its Twitter account, reported that the last session of the 2009-2013 period was on May 9th, and in that timeframe, 231 sessions were held. In other words, Zambrano was absent for 209 sessions (90.5%).

Zambrano wants to be an assembly member again, and on August 28th he registered his candidacy with the electoral authorities of El Oro, for the 2021 elections. He also appears as the main candidate on the list of candidates for provincial assembly members by Centro Democrático, a political group that forms part of Union for Hope (UNES) for the 2021 elections.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for presenting the results of the campaign claims and positions.
    It’s very valuable for all of us.

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