Ecuadorian government orders the deportation of Cuban journalist Alondra Santiago

The Cuban journalist is accused of committing acts against public security, in a measure seen as an act of censorship and authoritarianism

June 27, 2024 by Pablo Meriguet
Photo via Alondra Santiago/X

On June 24, 2024, the right-wing government of Daniel Noboa revoked the visa of Alondra Santiago, a Cuban journalist who has lived in Ecuador for over 19 years. Santiago, whose mother is Ecuadorian, became popular in recent years for her criticism against the latest neoliberal governments in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian government gave Santiago five days to leave Ecuador.

In a document, the Foreign Ministry accuses Santiago of “having committed acts that threaten public security and the structure of the State”. However, the communication does not specify the acts of which the journalist is accused. In another communiqué, the Ministry of the Interior stated that the Center for Strategic Intelligence (CIES) issued an alert on Santiago’s activities, but that such information is “secret”. Therefore, no state institution can satisfactorily explain what motivated the decision of the Executive.

However, many people suspect that the measure has to do with a video published on May 31, 2024, in which Santiago sings the national anthem while reciting criticisms against the government of Daniel Noboa. These suspicions seemed to be confirmed when, on June 25, the Executive surprisingly ordered a national radio and television broadcast in which the message “out of respect for the country” appeared, then the national anthem of Ecuador was played and, in the end, the phrase “the new Ecuador resolves” appeared.

Santiago has insisted that she did not commit any crime, and that, in reality, the revocation of her visa is retaliation by the “authoritarian government” of Noboa for having been a strong critic of his administration. 

“This is, without a doubt, an attack on freedom of the press and expression. This government wants to silence me at all costs, but I will NOT remain silent. That has never been an option,” she said in a post on June 25.

Santiago hopes to obtain from a judge a precautionary measure to prevent her deportation. “In the face of abuse and excessive power, it will be the justice system that will put a stop to this arbitrariness,” says the journalist.

Reactions in favor of and against Alondra Santiago’s deportation

The Executive’s measure generated a great deal of controversy in national politics. Several right-wing and left-wing politicians and journalists condemned the revocation of Santiago’s visa, appealing to the defense of the right to freedom of expression that Ecuadorians supposedly enjoy, and have expressed their solidarity with Santiago. 

“Daniel Noboa has just revoked the visa of a journalist for considering her a ‘threat to public security and the structure of the State.’ A JOURNALIST. Yesterday it was Sol Borja, Jose Luis Cañizares and Fabricio Vela. Today it is Alondra Santiago. Tomorrow, who will they come for? A dictatorship is officially established in the ‘New Ecuador’. You are not alone, [Alondra Santiago],” said National Assemblywoman Jahiren Noriega.

On the other hand, hundreds of xenophobic messages were written on several social networks supporting the government’s measure and demanding the deportation of any foreigner who disagrees with the Executive’s measures. A few weeks ago, a group of people demonstrated in Guayaquil against Santiago’s video and demanded his deportation for allegedly having offended the lyrics of the national anthem through a parody. In response to this accusation, Santiago said “It was not a parody of the anthem; I would never disrespect it […]. The president made a very arbitrary and violent decision against me.”

Another controversial decision by Noboa

Noboa made this decision in the middle of a national economic and political crisis. Following the orders of the International Monetary Fund, the government increased the Value Added Tax (VAT), and will soon raise the price of gasoline, which, presumably, will provoke protests in several parts of the country. 

He also lost the support of the majority of the National Assembly, which a few days ago condemned his statements against several Latin American presidents in an interview with the New Yorker. A few weeks ago, the first lady, Lavinia Valbonesi, was involved in a controversial business that intended to build several buildings in a protected area of the Ecuadorian coast.

As a result, the popularity that Noboa’s government enjoyed in the first months of his term has been eroded according to the latest polls, which cast doubt on whether he will be able to win the long-awaited presidential reelection.