Written by Sara Chaca, Attorney – Abogada
January 13th, 2019
So hey, did you happen to hear that little ditty about the $40+ million lawsuit (mas o menos!), which former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa originally won from Ecuadorian newspaper, El Universo, back in 2012? By obtaining such a sizable legal judgment against a prominent member of the press, he no doubt showed the world that to slight a person in Ecuador with one’s printed/stated words (whether done so in regard to Presidents, vagrants or otherwise), is in effect akin to shooting and leaving them for dead..Just like any other $40 million Court ordered judgment against a person would put one at serious risk of having a heart attack (or certainly cause them to not sleep well for the foreseeable future), so too might even a Court ordered criminal sentence that robs them of their freedom and mandates their multi-month incarceration in an Ecuadorian jail.
Yes, friends, Ecuador, while indeed a lovely place to live, retire to, and benefit financially as well as climactically from, is not a place where you can or should run your mouth, when you’re with feelings of angst or upset at another individual or their business, as the spoken word of the moment and/or that middle of the night literary tirade which you just pushed the send button on while personally seething within an online Expat forum, can and/or will unfortunately cause you to be or become very much in harm’s way, as per both your wallet and your freedom from prison in this country. And so, in this article, I will as clearly as possible, elucidate the underpinnings of Ecuadorian Defamation & Libel Law in Ecuador, and how it can affect one’s ability to enjoy their otherwise uneventful life in our beautiful, majestic and generally tranquil Ecuador.
Note Article 396 of the Ecuadorian Comprehensive Criminal Code (“Ecuadorian Penal Code”), which states, in part, the following, in relation to any comments made by a person to any other person, or in any type of public forum about another person in Ecuador (i.e. comments about a restaurant and/or its business owner):
“Será sancionada con pena privativa de libertad de quince a treinta días:
1. La persona que, por cualquier medio, profiera expresiones en descrédito o deshonra en contra de otra.”
Simply by utilizing Google Translate, as I have taken the liberty of doing so in the following (as per the above provided Spanish words of Article 396), one can readily see as per the English translation of said Spanish words from Article 396, that it is indeed a grave offense for ANY person in Ecuador to make, clearly shown as follows in English:
“It shall be punished with imprisonment from fifteen to thirty days:
1. A person who, by any means, utters expressions into disrepute or dishonor against another.”
In addition, the Ecuadorian Penal Code also sanctions “slander” with a prison sentence of between 6 months to 2 years, as indicated in article 182, for false accusation of a crime (i.e. calling someone any type of criminal for any matter which they are/were proven to have not done so).
And so, it is most unfortunate that a number of Expats have gotten into hot water as a direct result of same, when their temporarily driven anger and/or unidirectional spite got the better of them, and caused him/her to “utter the unutterable”, as per falling out of compliance with the first above referenced Article citations relative to Ecuador’s Penal Code. And in fact, the “Google Machine” (i.e. any relevant Google search) prominently displays for all to see, that truly no industry or business type in the country is immune from encountering the pertinent legal issues related to defamation and libel in Ecuador, as notable past legal cases appear online via typing into Google any combination of words related to this herein discussed matter and other topics of the same genre.
Per the above, and as some beneficial/helpful advice to anyone whose ever has/had the urge here in Ecuador to call someone an ugly name on the street or in/about that person’s place of business, or the desire to post a nasty comment on a forum about them, or otherwise publicly burn their name in effigy, it could reasonably be better instead, to simply become the loudest cheerleader and thus supporter of that person’s/company’s biggest competition, so as to positively cause the light of their competitor’s business to shine brightly and cast a proverbial shadow over and above that of the other person/business that you held/hold in disdain, and thus indirectly yet resoundingly cause that un-favored business’ light to dim down to nothing more than a flicker or even go out of business for a lack of customers as a result of same, and then take the satisfaction in knowing that its not in any way possible or provided for under Ecuadorian law that you be legitimately sued in Ecuador for having in effect used “honey instead of vinegar” to desirably make the despised person and their business “lose business” because of your beef with them that you’ll then clearly have won at that point without them having any legal ability to get back at you per their loss(es) caused by virtue of same. In fact, so as to really rub the other person’s nose in it (if you’re ever feeling so inclined..), feel free to send the person a copy or link to this very article, so that they’ll then see or sense that you outsmarted them and are/were fully in the right (and them fully in the wrong), which will show them in the end that you figured out how to unseat them without taking on any risk of liability to yourself as per your glowing words of their competitor, while still undeniably causing a substantial loss and lesson to/for them which no Court in the land would ever condone them being able to sue you for under any circumstances!
All discussions or desires of avenging, revenge and/or vengeance aside, note that in the end, and take it from a lawyer who makes it her job to know, Ecuador and its legal system isn’t in any way looking to put good people in jail or make them pay fines for nonsense, and so very truly, if you’re a fair, mannered and sensible individual who isn’t prone to shouting on the street, making midnight rants on social media, crashing public presentations or otherwise, then you will almost certainly never in your entire time in Ecuador or for any other reason whatsoever, risk becoming mired in or having to deal with such an issue of finding yourself in contravention of the defamation or libel law in Ecuador.
Sara Chaca (Attorney – Abogada) is a seasoned Ecuadorian Lawyer, who principally serves Expats in making their moves to Ecuador, as well as for any legal issues that arise or become actionable for her Expat clients to undertake in their new lives here in her beautiful country. Sara resides in Cuenca with her family, which consists of her American husband and 2 daughters (as well as her parents and siblings), and when not working, she enjoys spending time with her family in Cuenca’s majestic Cajas Mountains and local parks & fairs of Cuenca, plus visiting the coast as well as the many gem towns of Ecuador. Sara’s personal email address is email@example.com, and her personal cell phone number is 099.296.2065. Sara has a less than 24 hour first response policy, in that if you email or call her, she WILL return your first email or first phone call in less than 24 hours (more typically closer to 24 minutes). Most importantly, all first time consultations with Expats for any type Visa or Legal matter(s) are always FREE OF CHARGE.