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Opponent of Ecuadorian free trade agreements gets bouquet of flowers with threats

Fundamedios

This statement was originally published on fundamedios.org on 29 July 2015.

On 29 July 2015, Paulina Muñoz, a women's rights activist and outspoken opponent of free trade agreements in Ecuador, reported that she has been a victim of harassment and intimidation since November last year. The most serious event occurred on 25 June 2015 when she received a threat via a message that was presented to her with a bouquet of flowers.

During a press conference, Muñoz said that the bouquet was thrown at her on the street by an unidentified person as she went to her office after having been away on holiday for a few weeks. The message said: “We welcome you back, happy to know about your father's improvement. We know it's expensive. We are ready to help”.

The activist said that prior to this – on 27 October 2014 – she received an anonymous note at home warning her that she was under surveillance and to be careful because she could be involved in things “she couldn't imagine, pretexts enough to condemn or remove her. They suspect some, you among them, of being responsible for leaking the documents from the ambassador to the minister”.

Muñoz also said that in early March – after speaking at a meeting organized by the indigenous organization Ecuarunari about the risks of signing a trade agreement with Europe – she receieved another anonymous note in her mailbox, in which she was congratulated for her speech but warned to stop exposing herself. It said she still had a chance to fix her life, her finances and her father's and her family's health. This left her feeling bewildered and scared about being watched.

The activist said that – in addition to the anonymous notes, insulting messages began arriving in November 2014, to Ecuador Decide's Facebook page, managed by Muñoz, but from the same account, which shows the intervention of an outsider to that organization. She has also received messages via email, warning her of a possible intrusion.

“The sum of all these events and the indirect and subtle messages I get sent (…) the interference with my work tools, such as Ecuador Decide's email and the level of knowledge they have about my father, makes plausible or credible the possibility that my integrity could be in danger at any time”, wrote Muñoz in the complaint she will file with the Public Prosecutor requesting an investigation.

This is not the first time that citizens have been threatened through flower bouquets. It happened before with the administrator of the Facebook page Crudo Ecuador and the Twitter user and columnist for the newspaper El Universo, Betty Escobar. Both are known for their satirical memes and critical comments of the government.

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