LOJA, Ecuador (PNN) - August 26, 2021 - A grassroots organization defeated a government-backed COVID-19 vaccine mandate in Ecuador’s Loja Province on August 5.
On July 6, the Emergency Operations Committee (EOC), which is a crisis response branch of Ecuador’s state-level government, released a decree mandating COVID-19 vaccines for province residents over 16 years of age by August 9.
The decree, which came as a shock to residents, imposed restrictions on unvaccinated individuals, including entry into government buildings, bill payment locations, banks, restaurants, and other areas of daily commerce.
Nick Vasey, the founder of Human Rights Ecuador, spoke about the steps his organization took before the mandate went into effect.
“You had to extrapolate the real end result of all this,” Vasey said. “They [EOC] gave the Ecuadorean community zero time to respond to their decree and planned to steamroll the population.”
Human Rights Ecuador is a Loja-based group that promotes medical freedom.
Vasey’s lawyer filed injunction paperwork against the EOC on July 30. The lawyer then scheduled a meeting for August 3 with the Loja Ombudsman’s office. This proved to be a critical step since the provincial ombudsman could override the measure put forward by the EOC. Consequently, the Loja Ombudsman’s office released a statement on August 5 dismissing the vaccine mandate on the grounds of it being “unconstitutional”.
Vasey added, “There was formidable and constitutionally binding human rights opposition to the proposed measure.”
Ecuador’s Constitution guarantees citizens the right of refusal and treats all citizens without distinction of political ideology, socio-economic or cultural condition as equal before the law. Human Rights Ecuador claims on its website that the proposed vaccine mandate is also contrary to the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, which takes precedence over local regulations under Article 425 of Ecuador’s constitution.
On August 5, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador ruled against extending the state of emergency in the provinces of Guayaquil and El Oro, which was originally requested by President Guillermo Lasso’s government. The newly elected President Lasso took office on May 24 of this year and claimed he would vaccinate 9 million people in the first 100 days of his regime. However, without the extended state of emergency, the EOC lacks the administrative power to push COVID-19 vaccines.
Vasey asserted that Loja was just the proving ground for a vaccine mandate program being drafted by different state governments, of which Guayaquil is likely to be the next.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s most populous city with over 5 million residents, in a nation of 17.9 million people.