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Correa pardons newspaper in libel case

By Gonzalo Solano

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Feb. 27 2012 1:50 p.m. MST

In a column on the case published Sunday, Peru's Nobel Prize-winning author Mario Vargas Llosa said "no one can deny that journalism in Ecuador as in the rest of Latin America, is far from always being a paragon of integrity, balance and objectivity" and it is the job of an independent judiciary to guard against abuses.

"But decapitation is not the most appropriate remedy for headaches," he added, calling the verdict against El Universo "scandalous."

One of the judges involved in the case in its early stages, Monica Encalada, has accused a lawyer for Correa of trying to bribe her to ensure a guilty verdict against El Universo. She has sought political exile in Colombia.

Correa took office in January 2007 and won re-election in 2009 after a voter-approved constitutional reform. He has indicated he will seek a third term in 2013 elections.

With a 70 percent approval rating, the U.S. and European-trained economist is among Latin America's most popular leaders, thanks in part to an array of state-funded programs that have brought stability to a traditionally unruly nation.

Correa also has used the legislature to influence Ecuador's news media.

Last year, voters approved ballot measures he had proposed that bars news media owners from holdings in other business sectors and led to creation of a government oversight panel to regulate news media content for "excesses."

Correa also won congressional approval of a law that bars the news media from broadcasting or publishing any material that could influence opinions about candidates or proposals during election campaigns

Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Lima, Peru.

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