Christian Zurita talks about the murder of Fernando Villavicencio, the risks he faces, and his decision to lead Gente Buena.
-María Sol Borja · Last update August 31, 202
Christian Zurita: “We were not immortal, and they made us see it in the worst way.” Photography by Vanessa Terán Collantes.
The journalist Christian Zurita, who suddenly became a presidential candidate after the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, recently received GK at his home in Quito.
The morning is hot. In the park next to his house, a group of children play noisily, oblivious to the strong police contingent that guards Zurita today.
Armored cars, police motorcycles, elite troops protect who, until three weeks ago, was a journalist who circulated normally through the streets of the city.
His reality changed after the murder of his friend, Fernando Villavicencio.
Together they created the ‘Investigative Journalism’ portal, in which they published works that had an impact on national politics.
After the assassination of Villavicencio, on August 9, 2023, Zurita’s life took an unexpected turn: he assumed the presidential candidacy that corresponded to his colleague and friend.
Although it did not win the election, coming in third place, the movement led by Villavicencio, Gente Buena, which participated with the backing of Construye —former Ruptura de los 25, founded, among others, by María Paula Romo— achieved at least thirty assembly members for the next period.
How does it feel to go from being a journalist to being a politician, after having also lost your friend, in such a violent situation?
There has not been space or time to assimilate the decisions.
The decisions are a consequence of having accepted the candidacy. And right or wrong it brings a responsibility that, when I took it on, well, I simply hadn’t seen it.
It is a responsibility that, above all, I must assume.
I didn’t make it to the second round, but a block came to the Assembly. That bloc asks for leadership. Ask for lines of action. That block requires knowing positions from the political and all that. I have been forced to think for the first time to find ways to face all these challenges.
So, this transit, which has been so abrupt and so strong, is simply being built on a day-to-day basis. You have to think about it a little more broadly, as the heavy schedule to which I have been subjected in the last 15 days is reduced.
What was that moment like when you made the decision?
After Fernando’s death I had no head for anything else.
His wife, unfortunately, was outside of Ecuador and, legally, she was the only person who could legally take care of Fernando’s remains. In addition, she went into shock and under these conditions I had to persuade her to give me the authorization to carry out these procedures.
As soon as I found out, I knew he was dead. I was a few meters away. Until understanding where he was and discovering that he was dead, because they were the worst moments.
In those moments his wife finds out, calls me and asks me. And I am the one who had to give her the news of the conditions we were facing at that time.
Minutes after what happened?
Everything is decanted quickly because it is like that through the networks.
You share the first video, the one in which shots are heard, you see people screaming, people throwing themselves to the ground, and minutes after that video, you share another tweet in which you say, “My friend has died.”
I am leaving, a few meters from the door of the Anderson College Coliseum, and a few meters from the door that leads to a bleacher that leads to the sidewalks, the shooting begins.
Everyone drops to the floor.
I didn’t think they were shooting. I said, “They are flying.” You’re never prepared to think it’s gunshots. When I look at the stampede of people who enter and fall to the ground and we fall to the ground and I try to walk among the people scattered on the ground, I manage to get out and what I see is a policeman with a gun and I no longer see any car.
The first thing I ask is where Fernando is, and he tells me, “They already took him.”
So, I assumed that absolutely nothing had happened until I found and saw that after so many shots there were no injuries, that the teams are safe and sound, because 15 minutes will have passed; until we found a space to meet and realize what was happening, another five or ten minutes will have passed.
Later we found out that Fernando had died immediately, that he had been taken to the Women’s Clinic and that there was absolutely nothing to do there.
When Fernando’s wife called me, it had not finished getting dark, I could not determine the times.
Before this happened, what role did you have? Did you use to accompany him to these events?
I never accompanied him to events. I only accompanied one of them in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and I accompanied him to another event that he held in the south of Quito.
This was the third event that I had accompanied him to, and I went because we had planned to meet with him at night and with some with a group of people with whom we had to discuss some important campaign issues.
What was your role like in the campaign or in the political party?
The campaign was structured around an independent structure from both Construye and Gente Buena.
It was thought that this would work by constituting a campaign bureau that does not respond directly to the interests of each of the groups and that would allow for independence in campaign management, just as he would have wanted.
When I joined the campaign, it was already structured because I was not in Ecuador, I was not in the country and I did not want him to enter into this, I did not want him to enter into this.
And did you tell him?
I always told him.
He called me, I was in Panama, and he told me, “You have to take charge and I can only entrust the most important thing to you because I know that I can only trust you.”
What was it?
The finances. And I took care of the finances.
I came to administer a campaign that was quite austere, and to effectively seek how to correct the economic problems of this campaign.
That was basically my concern.
Obviously, I was never detached from the subject of communication.
When the lists began to be put together, it wasn’t that I decided who would go and who wouldn’t. But there was a training to build the lists. In other words, to look for the people who had to be there, due to the urgency, a series of knots were generated that at a certain moment I helped to manage by telling them to decide quickly, that they could not wait.
I mean, it was like a hinge between many things.
The only thing in which I was not involved was in the agenda or in the territorial policy that I knew absolutely nothing about.
If I’m not wrong, Fernando Villavicencio was the first candidate who made the decision to participate once the cross death was known. When this happened, had he already told you?
I arrived when an armed structure already existed.
Previously, when he was in the Assembly, what we did was think about and coordinate issues of joint interest. It was not a strategy, but we did plan topics that interested us. Above all, in the construction of content.
Did you still contribute content for your portal?
In fact, this year’s production was reduced from March or April because we entered the dynamics of publishing a book on the Chinese debt that is about to come out.
Where there were a series of agreements and ways of thinking about the information was before, when the political trial was not yet seen, when there was no cross death and when we had common interests to understand what happens, above all, with the issue of the organized crime groups.
It was information that he shared with everyone.
Since he was a member of the assembly, we have not promoted Villavicencio’s agenda due to elementary principles of journalistic agreements. If he had information, he would make it public, and indeed we worked on it deeply, as we always have.
He became another source of information. But obviously he is part of this portal, so there was a more direct, more fluid dialogue that never stopped.
How did you decide to take the leap and be a candidate, after the murder?
After the funeral, on Saturday night, all the members of the bureau came and asked me to take over.
For me it was a surprise.
Didn’t you imagine that something like this could happen?
No, no. How am I going to be imagining those things?
It was a meeting that started late, perhaps at 10:30 at night and I decided at 8:30 the next morning, when I was meeting here with Martha Roldós, my friend and Fernando’s friend.
Why do you decide to accept?
For him. Because I wasn’t going to let them silence his legacy. I could not let his death remain there, I had to finish the elections and that vote was mine, only mine, that is not endorsable.
I was only the vehicle that allowed this candidacy to continue.
You say you couldn’t let his legacy die. How does that legacy continue if they did not achieve this space of power that Fernando Villavicencio aspired to?
The first thing was that. What was coming in the future, I just didn’t have it envisioned.
They are decisions that have been made to the extent that the roads have forced me to walk in one of those directions.
If everyone suddenly sees in me a possible leadership position, well, I’ve had to think about it very quickly. I mean, I can’t think about it too much, you have to make decisions.
So, if you need help, come on, yeah.
I haven’t had the space or possibility yet, really, to decide the things I want.
About your life from now on?
Exactly. As the agenda goes down, I am going to draw up a plan respecting my personal positions.
You said in Ecuavisa that you are going to leave the country.
It’s that yes, but I can’t leave without first doing the things that I must, and I have to publish the book.
That’s number one, for me, personally.
I just have to redo the prologue; the rest is ready, and we owe it to Fernando. He got the information and found the first ways to finance that book.
He is not listed as an author. The authors are several people, I have coordinated it. Above all they are women because I like women’s work, it’s better.
Let’s talk about the organization and about the future because there are already these internal disputes. Mr. Edwin Ortega says that you do not have any power to make decisions in Gente Buena and that there is no legitimacy in what you decide.
What role do these struggles play within the organization?
Within the constituted legislative block, none. Zero. They affect absolutely nothing. There is a block of 31 assembly members who were elected, of those, 30 remain. One is leaving, Adriana, García, and why is she leaving?
Because the person listed as her alternate is Francisco Jácome, who was one of the great mobilizers of the Gente Buena movement, who promoted the constitution of this enormous group that promoted Fernando’s candidacy in Fernando’s name, and although it is an organization that is not recognized as party or political subject in the National Electoral Council, has a very interesting territorial structure.
That is its strength, which allowed at least 14 or 15 assembly members from this alliance to be elected. A good part of those assembly members were directly thought of or postulated by Fernando.
This cannot be called an alliance because Construye is a formal movement and Good People, no, so there is an agreement. The agreement was to find candidates 50 percent for Good People, 50 percent for Construye.
The moment Francisco Jácome agrees to be an alternate for Adriana García, he has to join Construye because it is the constituted movement. Therefore, he could no longer be president of Gente Buena, and he is not directly linked to Gente Buena and, since Captain Ortega, who appeared as vice president, at various times requested to separate from the Gente Buena movement, due to various circumstances.
During the campaign?
Yes, during the campaign before, yes, three or four times he requested to separate from the organization.
But if it wasn’t a formal organization, why didn’t he just leave?
Well, Edwin Ortega is extremely free, he acts on impulse and acts according to his own individual principles.
He is a solitary man and on that he constituted a platform of action, within the campaign and he did not do badly.
Those who are opposed, now within all these processes are the two of them, there are no more. They say why I took the position.
Was that the downside, had they wanted to be the ones to assume?
They could take the post. The problem is that when they don’t go to the second round, they want to turn this entire territorial structure into a mobile political structure because they want to support Daniel Noboa.
Then I received the request from Joel Silva, who is the executive director of Gente Buena and who has legal control over Gente Buena.
The issue was to think about how this movement, with a territorial structure, was going to unite to promote a campaign that we cannot admit under any circumstances. So that’s why I took control.
And why couldn’t they support him?
And why would we do it? Under no circumstance.
That would not have been the principle proclaimed, first by Fernando and then because they did not intend to support other candidates but to build a path in unity with the movement that accepted the proposal.
In other words, why go campaigning for someone with whom there is no agreement, with whom they have not spoken or intend to speak and with whom there can only be legislative agreements.
That’s why I took control, not for anything else.
What is your role right now at the head of the organization?
The presidency means that I have to start leading and rebuilding the spaces that may be weakened by this problem generated by Francisco and Edwin.
I don’t know how long I’m going to stay. It may be a long commission, but I do not have legal control of the movement, Joel Silva has it as executive director. He has given me that appointment with which everyone is happy with the exception of Francisco Jácome and Edwin Ortega.
Now, under normal circumstances, it usually happens that they arrive at the Assembly and the blocks break. Have you contemplated the possibility of something like this happening and that the bloc that, at the moment is 31, will end up splitting, we will see how many remain when the elections are repeated abroad?
It is possible that this could happen because there are a series of guidelines that are trying to undermine each of the assembly members, that will always happen.
We understand that there have been interests of certain groups, to go calling them individually for their organizations, to co-opt them. That always happens.
The difference is that we must work as a strong block, with strategies at all levels. Both politically and communicationally, on the subject of proposals that each assembly member feels interested in promoting, according to their empathic or professional particularities.
We haven’t had the opportunity to meet all of us so far, it’s not easy.
In addition, it will take a while for the Assembly to settle in because we have to wait for the decisions made by the National Electoral Council regarding the issue of elections abroad.
The original decision, already taken in the plenary session of the CNE, is that the elections be held abroad again, only for assembly members. You are against repeating the elections.
It is that there is no way that they can declare the elections void with the existing regulations.
What they try to apply or adapt roughly and by force, is number 3 of article 143 of the Democracy Code, which refers to problems in the electoral roll that could possibly be corrupted.
But that is in terms of a common and traditional election, not telematics.
In that there are no tables, there are no installation meetings, there are no tally sheets, there are no final minutes. So, there is no territory, and this article refers specifically to territory.
If you don’t have a constraining causal norm that can effectively end that choice, how do you end it? There is no way.
It is an extremely crude decision from the legal point of view, it has no legal precedents.
It may even cost them a criminal lawsuit or impeachment.
Now, how is that alliance with Construye going? Construye is being led by former minister María Paula Romo, what is Romo’s role?
It is solid to the extent that there is a commitment from the two organizations to maintain a much more serious plan after the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio.
There are things that are going to be the columns of politics in this year and a half. On that everyone has agreed.
Maria Paula is not here. She leads the Construye movement and clearly understands that there is another space that she does not lead.
There is absolutely nothing hidden there.
Fernando Villavicencio reached an agreement with Construye to manage the candidacy, they had very clear agreements.
In the end, my candidacy goes through a position in which everyone agreed, Construye included.
They accepted my candidacy with total openness and good spirits. They could have put whoever they wanted and that did not happen.
In other words, they openly accepted my presence there and have strongly supported it.
What is the role of María Paula Romo there?
She can’t be here, she’s out of the country. What she can do is give political lines and guidelines, explain how moments of crisis should be faced because she actually knows, and at this moment we are in those conditions.
It is possible that they will leave out two assembly members from abroad.
The name of Patricio Carrillo has been constantly challenged and it is necessary to find ways to defend him politically, so that he can be sworn in as a national assemblyman. He has the second vote, that is, there is a condition of clear democratic legitimacy.
But you no longer vote individually, so it is no longer that one assembly member has more votes than another.
But in what it means, then, the percentage of voters with respect to another assembly member, is important.
Since you touch on the subject of Patricio Carrillo, some people consider that it could have been a deception to the electorate because they knew that due to the impeachment that censured him, he would not be able to take office if he won the elections.
And well, Mrs. Victoria Desintonio was able to assume the National Assembly in the same circumstances. I mean, there are precedents.
[Zurita refers to the former counselor of the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control, Victoria Desintonio, who after being dismissed from the body in February 2021, was later a candidate for the National Assembly and held a seat for the Citizen Revolution in the May elections this year. Walter Gómez, her partner in the CPCCS, also dismissed, also won a seat for the RC.]
I understand that there is a different legal framework in both cases.
They were censured by the National Assembly from public office and Gómez too.
So, there is a precedent there, there are also judgments of the Inter-American Court in which they identify that the possibility and presence of a political subject cannot be denied.
Even if there is a political trial that censors it?
That issue must be fought.
How did you make the leap from journalism to politics, being also a journalist who has been very critical, in general, of the actions of politicians?
It is part of the decisions and consequences of having accepted the candidacy.
I recently told you that those votes are not mine, they are Fernando’s. But in the end, I ended up in charge of this candidacy and 16.5% is something else important.
I have a commitment to establish and carry out a project that is hereafter, but you cannot ask me for justifications from this point backwards.
The question is more about how you adapt to that because obviously many of the ones you assume were not initially your decisions.
I have not adapted.
In other words, this is a process that has come to me as I walk. If you ask me what the answer is, there is no answer.
It has been walking what I have had to do these days, but they are few, in reality there are few days that I have had since the elections. It’s nine days.
So, everything is yet to be seen, everything is yet to be built, everything is yet to rise, and we may encounter more obstacles.
They have asked me to lead a position in these circumstances, and I have to do it, I am going to do it and then the personal decisions will come.
Normally people enter politics in one way, a way from which it is difficult to leave.
It is possible and for now I do not have the answer, but look, I have been on a high-speed train since 2017, and on other faster trains since 2007.
Why those dates?
Because we have acted forcefully, and we have never stopped. We must have the largest journalistic production in this country, by far, by far.
We have faced all the obstacles and we were not immortal, and they made us see it in the worst light.
I wonder if it was worth it. I do wonder if it was worth it.
Don’t have that answer?
I just wonder.
Let’s talk about that a bit before we close. There has now been questioning about the investigative process.
You have exchanged some tweets with former assemblyman Ricardo Vanegas in which he raised doubts, in a rather confusing way, about one of Fernando Villavicencio’s security members. There has also been talk of an alleged dark hand of the police themselves.
Right now, there are many voices trying to intervene in the investigative process.
The family is interested in knowing what happened. They has positions and are obviously still in shock.
His widow is interested in knowing what happened.
Those of us who have not already been directly involved in seeing the case are the circle that was always with Fernando, because we are trying to get that project that was truncated.
So, what exists there, well, they are a series of voices that try to position themselves as possible investigators or followers of the case, like Vanegas.
Vanegas may have found a way to defend the family, but he is releasing information that he doesn’t understand at first.
And what he is looking for, I think, is a possible political recognition of a supposed closeness to Fernando Villavicencio.
That is false?
That is false. He didn’t have it.
In other words, they were conditions directly related to political activity, conjunctural.
But now he is acting in pursuit of a line that he does not quite understand, and that lack of understanding passes through social networks to all of us and ends up generating more confusion.
Then it gives the impression that there is a series of internal motivations, from the political organization itself to act against Fernando Villavicencio himself.
I think it is a serious mistake by Vanegas. I called him on August 28th and asked him to be careful, that if he doesn’t understand, don’t publish and that if he’s going to keep doing it, he’ll have to face me personally because I’m not going to let him, from the public, try to stain a Fernando’s team who were extremely loyal.
Shall we talk about your security team?
Fernando trusted his security team but was always told that it was a bad team.
Here there is a very clear person in charge called Cristian Cevallos, Captain Cristian Cevallos, head of the Fernando Villavicencio ‘capsule [team]’ is responsible.
Why was he there?
He was there, he was always there, and he is the person who makes him get into that vehicle.
Have you been asked for explanations?
I understand that he already gave his version in the Prosecutor’s Office and had a statement of approximately five hours, yes, but if there is a condition of negligence and responsibility, it belongs to Cristian Cevallos.
Cevallos was not a man who was trained in personal security.
Cevallos was not trained for personal security?
If he, as head of security, was responsible, he had to be in charge of the entire security system, as well as the capsule that I now have and that, at the time, we left in evidence and in writing after the death of Augustine Intriago.
The day after the death of Agustín Intriago we requested, through various intelligence representatives, that he be profiled, and that intelligence be deepened to find out what was happening outside the scope of Fernando Villavicencio’s campaign.
But why did they associate the death of Agustín Intriago with Fernando Villavicencio?
Agustín Intriago was an anti-correista politician and anti-correismo ended up joining Fernando.
In campaigns they reached an agreement, in the sense that he would be there and support, especially in the south of Manabí, Fernando’s candidacy.
A month later, he was assassinated.
When that happens, we request that these investigative processes be carried out by both the Police and the Armed Forces.
And what happened? Absolutely nothing happened, despite the fact that we already knew from Intelligence that Fernando’s vulnerability profile was 97%.
I mean, they were going to kill him.
With that level of risk, were there no safety recommendations, for example to avoid crowds or rallies?
The recommendation was no walking, and there was never any walking.
If there were campaign events, they had to be indoors, as they all did.
If there was any type of caravan, it had to be in spaces where the vehicles could have a constant flow, a rhythm of movement, that did not stop.
That was fulfilled.
I think there were two open spaces, one in Riobamba, the first; and another, in Latacunga, in Plaza El Salto, which was completely filled.
There was no other, but the one who had to take full charge of security was Captain Christian Cevallos.
There were times when there was a large security pod set up, and other times it wasn’t. It was intermittent.
When he left, he was very powerful, but when he was in Quito, no, and that day he is the only one responsible for having put Fernando in that car.
Is it the person who gets in and locks the vehicle?
He is the one who ducks when the shots start; they put him in, and he bends over.
As soon as I entered the hospital, I already saw their entire security capsule destroyed. One was hurt.
How many people were there?
There were about four or five of them and he blamed himself for having allowed him to get into that car that wasn’t armored, the armored car was a few meters away.
Why did they let you go?
That is what Cevallos has to answer.
Regardless of who is the intellectual author of this fact, the negligence passes through Christian Cevallos.
Is there a risk that the campaign has been contaminated, Christian?
Political organizations, like institutions, can be permeated by organized crime.
Is it possible that something like this has happened within the campaign, that it has been permeated by members of some criminal organization?
It’s possible. The lines of an electoral campaign are many, they are large and well, you do not finish knowing the people who enter and are part, even territorially. You do not finish identifying who can accompany a candidacy.
For this reason, when this campaign began, there was a kind of small talk on compliance, about what should be taken into account as core and red points about what it means to start a campaign, with each of the candidates.
They asked me to do it and although I was not yet directly linked to the campaign, I made some comments about how you have to observe the people who come to offer money, what you have to think about, how it is shaped, that is a series of care, lines.
To know the origin of the money?
Of course, more or less you don’t take this, review, ask yourself these questions, if a legal firm comes, think about this and a series of issues.
And, well, to a large extent they did comply and perhaps that is reflected in how austere the campaign was.
But there is money that does not go through the campaign manager or the financier, money that goes through the periphery.
Yes, always some kind of help, but all that had to be recorded.
We were very careful to record a large part of the resources delivered in kind and they are reported to the National Electoral Council.
Luckily it was a short campaign.
The big problem is when there are three months of campaign. There how to control everything? It has to work like a company, in reality, a campaign is a company and if you are not clear about the economic management, basically nothing works.
Were there threats to people on your team in the territory?
In territory, that we know of, well, no.
We haven’t consulted it either, but after Fernando’s crime there were many signs that we didn’t see.
From the installation of my security capsule, we know that two to three days before they destroyed all the cameras on this street [from his house].
There was an attempted robbery of Carlos Figueroa.
Look at this house, it is a condominium of two houses. Here, next door, is another, there is no division, there is no way to differentiate that there are two houses, two families. It is thought to be the same.
Five days before, all the things were stolen from my neighbor’s vehicle, not here at the house, but on the corner.
And outside Carlos Figueroa’s house they found doves with their throats cut.
Before the murder of Fernando Villavicencio?
Yes, all this before.
They are signs that we never saw until the moment you start to think who saw what, who did what.
Likewise, the theft of my neighbors’ vehicle is very clear and after the crime, the attempt to enter Antonio López’s office is very clear.
But wasn’t there Intelligence in Fernando Villavicencio’s security team?
It is that the Intelligence corresponds to the police and the request for Intelligence had to be done by them through the General Directorate of Intelligence and this was communicated through the head of the Fernando Security Unit, who was Captain Cevallos.
Should he have asked?
He had to have received. He should have exchanged the information.
He had to have done everything because the security team of the campaign could establish an advance process, know where there could be points where problems could be generated,
And was there a campaign security team?
It is an advanced team, of civilians or officers of the Police or the Army in passive service, who have better knowledge.
So, who tells you how many people can get on the stage, how to establish an adequate number where the event is going to be held, consider that the doors have sufficient entry and exit capacity, safeguard corners, elementary things, more elementary things.
That is, we create a circle so that everyone does not approach the candidate and can attack him. That, that security.
Isn’t it that there was a private security?
Well, no, never.
How could we have private security? We couldn’t afford private security.
We depended directly on the capsule, so as I was saying at one point, this was intermittent: at times, very good and at other times as disastrous as the one we saw on the day of the crime.
It was not constant. And then the General Police Commander came out to lie, to say that there was a ring of three.
That is not true?
That is not true. I was there. I was there.
What happened to Fernando’s cell phone?
The phone was given to his family.
Isn’t it true that it disappeared?
Is not true.
The phone was handed over to his family and they, well, I understand that they will have already given the explanations.
Christian, a moment ago you said, “We weren’t immortal, and they made us look the worst.” At different times you launched investigations against different governments, they were questioned, etc., did you ever think that something like this could happen?
Wasn’t it a risk?
If we had thought so, we would not have done it.
And knowing that Fernando had a 97% risk, wasn’t it a possibility that something like that could happen?
Fernando was reckless, he was not afraid. He wasn’t afraid.
If you told Fernando to go out through the alternate door, he would go out through the main one. If you told him to walk on the sidewalk, he would walk on the street.
Or was there a personal oversight as well?
He was like that. He wasn’t afraid. None.
But no notion of risk either?
It’s just that I talked a lot with him about this. I told him “Fernando, calm down.” And he said “No, no, this has to be done like this, if we don’t do it, it won’t work.”
I told him, “But hey, but they can break us.” And he [said], “Yes, who is going to take charge? You.”
I told him, “You’re crazy, you can’t think about that,” and he said, “Well, if it’s over, the road is over now. It is today the way, not tomorrow.” And so he always thought.
With what has happened and now seeing that you have this security device that you have, having children, having a family, are you afraid, Christian? Or are you in the same position as Fernando?
In other words, I understand that I have to take great care of myself.
I can’t neglect myself. I will have to live like this for a long time, until I define which path, I finish building for myself.
How do you live like this?
You don’t live.
You can’t go out for coffee anymore.
No, I can’t walk down the street, I can’t go to a shopping center for coffee, I can’t go see a movie with my son.
I have not been able to see my son.
The biggest loss you’ve had these days is Fernando’s life. What other losses have you had? Is this one, the one about the freedom to move around, the privacy?
There is nothing that compares to losing him.
There is nothing.
You have said that this path is one way and that after this there is no return to journalism. How much did that decision to leave journalism cost you?
It has not yet taken its toll on me because I have not been able to walk it. I said that because I think it’s a principle and, if I stick with it, I’m going to uphold it.
That does not mean that it builds paths in favor of journalism, because enormous paths can be built from politics in favor of journalism. But it is not the same as doing journalism, doing what I did, which somehow, due to these circumstances, I stopped doing.
I thought that I had to send a clear message, so that it is understood that they are not compatible paths. You are in this line, or you are in this other one, there is no middle line for that.
I think it was prudent to make it clear that if I got into this, at least that kind of journalism that I did, is no longer possible. It is no longer possible.
I can’t go against my principles. The only thing I can be is to be honest with myself.
I will never betray myself. Never. And I could not be using or playing or fiddling with spaces that have been very legitimate, powerful of mine, such as journalism, to generate dalliances in politics.
If I continue, we will see how I face all these obstacles that political presence generates, but look, things have been so fast that I think no one can ask me to decide so quickly.
For now, I have committed to finding ways.
At the head of the political organization?
Yes, at the head of the organization. For now, I have promised to present my book. We are not going to sell it, as it is a project financed with international assistance we cannot sell it, it will be an eBook, which we hope can be downloaded from our portal.
There you will find at least a thousand documents related to the debt with China that were reserved and that are open for public use.
The book above all is casuistic; it makes a timeline to understand the documents, the contracts. With the release of the documents, it will remain for academics, journalists and others who want to investigate the Chinese phenomenon.
What sustains you now?
I have always had the ability to support myself.
Emotionally I break.
You haven’t been able to mourn, have you?
No, no, no.
You have seen how I have been breaking down in the course of the interview.
I have not been able to mourn and maybe I will not have a greater chance of doing so in the coming days.
What sustains me? Well, I do not know.
I have people around me, whom I admire and love very much, who are present. And I would say that they are the support of this.
Have you had time for a wish, for a dream for the future?
No, I’m not thinking about that. Not really. But there will be time.
Are you living from day to day?
Yes. It’s one day at a time. With decisions one day at a time.
Maria Sol Borja is a seasoned journalist with a rich portfolio, including contributions to prestigious publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Notably, she was a finalist at the 2019 Gabo Awards as part of the team behind “Frontera Cautiva” and received recognition as a finalist in the Opinion category at the 2021 Jorge Mantilla Ortega Awards. Maria brings a wealth of experience in both television and print media. Her academic background includes a Master’s degree in Political Communication and Image from UPSA, Spain, and another in Journalism from UDLA, Ecuador. Currently, she serves as an associate editor and political editor at GK, showcasing her expertise in the field.
This article was originally published in Spanish on GK. It has been translated and lightly edited for clarity in English.