Franco-Brazilian academic and journalist Manuela Picq has been arrested at an Indigenous march in Ecuador and is facing deportation. She was accompanying her partner at the march and pursuing journalistic investigation of the Indigenous movement. Update August 17th: Today a judge ruled Manuela Picq will not be deported from Ecuador.
Franco-Brazilian academic and journalist Manuela Picq has been arrested at an Indigenous march in Ecuador and is facing deportation. She was accompanying her partner at the march and pursuing journalistic investigation of the Indigenous movement.
Picq has lived in Ecuador for eight years, and has written about women, gender, and Indigenous movements for journalistic outlets such as Upside Down World and Al-Jazeera as well as in numerous scholarly publications.
On Thursday, August 13, Picq was accompanying an uprising called by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) in the capital city of Quito against the extractive policies of president Rafael Correa. A video shows police surrounding Picq, beating her with their batons, and dragging her away.
Indigenous activists have long been locked in conflict with Correa over the failure of his leftist government to break from an economic model that depends on the extraction and exportation of petroleum and gold to fund social programs. These activists complain that his policies harm the environment and require vast amounts of water that would otherwise be used to meet human needs
Picq is the partner of Carlos Pérez, president of Ecuarunari, a regional affiliate of the CONAIE. Pérez is a lawyer who has long fought for the water rights of local Indigenous communities in southern Ecuador. Pérez and other leaders were also arrested in Thursday’s protests.
Picq’s deportation is almost certainly retribution against Pérez for his political activism. A group of feminist activists declared that the “government’s male chauvinist cruelty finds its clearest manifestation in the aggressions against Manuela Picq for her participation in social movements and for being an Indigenous leader’s wife.”
Picq was in Ecuador on an academic visa that permitted her to teach at the prestigious San Francisco University in Quito. She previously taught at Amherst College in Massachusetts and has had been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey.
A statement from Picq’s academic colleagues notes that she “is a widely-recognized scholar of International Relations, social movements, feminism, Indigenous studies, and sexuality studies.” Their statement observes, “Picq was exercising her rights to freedom of expression, protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 18-20) of which Ecuador is a signatory.” They ask the Ecuadorian government to allow Picq to remain in the country.
The Correa government arbitrarily canceled Picq’s visa under charges that engaging in political activity was a violation of the visa, and now seeks to deport her for being in the country without a visa. Picq has a deportation hearing at 4pm on Monday, August 17. Many other scholars have also lived in Ecuador with this same visa and accompanied Indigenous organizations in their protest movements without facing retribution.
Picq’s supporters are labeling her deportation as representative of the authoritarian nature of the Correa government, and an example of the criminalization of social protest that Indigenous organizations have faced under his administration.
In an article on “lawfare” in Ecuador, Picq wrote “The Correa government uses lawfare strategically, and its victims are not limited to just the people being sued. The tactic consists in punishing a few dissenters to deter broader contestation, to instigate fear across society, and to mislead political opinion at large. All too frequently, intimidation works by intimidating people into silence, thus impoverishing political debate.”
A petition calling for a halt to deportation proceedings against Picq is at this link.
Marc Becker is professor of Latin American history at Truman State University and the author of Pachakutik: Indigenous movements and electoral politics in Ecuador (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011).