Author Topic: Statement by Manuela Picq's Sister Regarding Harrasment from Ecuador Authorites  (Read 3297 times)

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Offline 666

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We have been asked to publish this statement by Manuela Picq sister Joana

Our lives changed last Thursday night, August 13th 2015, when my sister Manuela, a French-Brazilian journalist and scholar from Princeton, was beaten then taken away by Ecuadorian police while protesting peacefully for indigenous people’s rights in the streets of Quito.
For 4 days we experienced a roller coaster of emotions while Manuela went from police hospitals to immigration prison. First they had to check her head given the severity of her injuries, then they took her passport away, cancelled her visa with no legal grounds, and scheduled a deportation trial for her the following Monday, and threw her in a prison for illegal immigrants.

Ecuadorian officials first said Manuela was “attacking the police”, then said she had been attacked by other people and “saved” by their police, then eventually stopped talking and digging themselves a hole. They surprised us with their idiocy seeing as there were already various videos and photos all over the internet showing exactly how Ecuadorian police took her out of her peaceful march to beat and drag her and her boyfriend Carlos, head of the indigenous opposition to Correa’s government.

For two days my mother, Manuela’s friends and I rallied all the troops we could find across Brazil, France, the US and Ecuador. Even her favourite mountain, Cotopaxi, erupted in outrage. The support was so overwhelming that we bounced from anger and helplessness to gratitude and hope - people from all over the World went out of their way to show support for my sister. Humanity showed its true face, not in an effort against Correa, but in an effort to help Manuela regain her freedom and secure her civil rights.
 
Thousands signed her petition and showed their support on Facebook and Twitter - various Academic institutions like Princeton and Amherst, human rights groups and even the official legal body of Brazil sent official letters of support. The World came together in 3 days to request that Manuela be freed and her civil rights be reinstated. My mother Lena Lavinas was so effective at engaging all the Brazilian press that even Carlinhos Brown, a famous Brazilian singer, dedicated a song to her freedom during a concert - Manuela was right, it was better than a Bruce Willis movie. We feared every minute of the day that they might take her phone away and lock her in limbo by postponing her trial, but the love we received from everyone was so overwhelming that we stayed positive and hopeful throughout. When Monday came, thousands had taken the streets of Quito to show their support to Manuela, waiting by the court for her release, ready to fight for her to stay home in Ecuador. We never managed to get official support from neither the French or Brazilian governments, but we didn't need it - the World was watching, and the World was on our side irrespective of international politics.

The judge showed her independence from the state and her commitment to the law during Monday’s hearing, by denying Manuela’s deportation and requesting that the people who cancelled her visa and took her away be investigated. My sister was free from immigrants prison, free to go back to her apartment in Quito, free to speak the truth like she always has done - not only of Correa’s police attacks on indigenous people across the country, especially in Saraguro and against women, but also of Correa’s home affairs practice in dealing with illegal immigrants. Manuela outlined to the press what she saw and experienced during her 4 days in “immigration prison” - people had recently committed suicide given the atrocity of their limbo and precarious conditions. Manuela was however not free to go back to her job at the University of San Francisco de Quito yet, because she still needed to get her passport and visa back.

I can’t say we were surprised to hear today that the minister of home Affairs took it personally and appealed against Monday’s verdict. My sister’s “win” is now hanging by a thread again - the government’s ongoing use of legal warfare is the biggest threat to my sister’s safety. Legal warfare, or lawfare, is something Manuela first wrote about back in Oct 2013: manipulation of the law to jail and repress any and all political opposition. The only reason her boyfriend Carlos Perez Guartambel has managed to free himself every time around is because he is a lawyer, and probably the best lawyer in the country.

Correa has used Cotopaxi’s eruption to call for a “state of emergency”, which basically allows him to act unconstitutionally. He has since been using that “state of emergency” to imprison over 100 indigenous people across the country who are marching against the “sale” of all their natural resources to the Chinese. We fear his government might use it against Manuela as they appeal against Monday’s win and refuse to re-issue her visa, that was illegally cancelled. In these circumstances, he can pretty much do whatever he wants against Manuela or anyone in the country, under the pretence that a volcano is erupting (I know, hard to connect a volcano to jailing people marching for their rights).
The only way to protect Manuela now, while we work on re-issuing her visa and making sure home affairs loses their appeal, is to get official “protection” that ensures her civil rights are guaranteed during this time period, despite the state of emergency. We need this urgently, or Manuela could be at very high risk, which is why my sister is going back into court today at 3pm Quito time. If she faces a corrupted judge, she might lose, and have to leave. But there are no legal grounds in which she could otherwise lose this trial - so this will be a matter of how much Correa wishes to expose his dictatorial ways publicly, globally.

Manuela has been committed to indigenous people in the Andes, especially indigenous women in Ecuador, for many many years. She has been documenting Correa’s growing dictatorial manners for a long time. She is a gender studies PhD specialised in indigenous women in Latin America, and although she was invited to be a scholar at Princeton’s Institute of Advance Study (created by Einstein) precisely for her knowledge on this matter, she still left the US to go back to Ecuador, because that is her home.

Manuela and I might have been born French-Brazilian and grown up between those two countries, but our hearts are certainly neither French nor Brazilian, but global. Manuela and I were never brought up by our mother to simply survive - we were brought up to thrive, and we have never shied away from change or the pursuit of the life we want for ourselves, no matter how unorthodox. Manuela will continue to fight with her adopted countrymen and women, for their beloved Ecuador to remain theirs, and not be sold to China for president Correa’s benefit.

By trying to stop my sister and Carlos, Correa is just giving them a louder voice at global level - he is empowering them every time he tries to shut Manuela down. If Manuela ends up having to leave Ecuador after today’s hearing, it will only be temporary, and her voice will only speak louder from the outside, so he should think twice about how he’ll continue to use lawfare and his corrupted team this week, it could seriously backfire.


Joana Picq
20.08.2015