Ecuadorian voters on Saturday approved [results, in Spanish] a series of judicial, social and other governmental reforms backed by President Rafael Correa [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile]. The judicial reforms will dissolve the standing oversight body and replace it with a temporary body to oversee the restructuring of the national court system. Other referendum items [text, PDF, in Spanish] will allow longer detentions of suspected criminals without charge, and include a prohibition on gambling and casinos, limits on bullfighting and cockfighting, as well as the banning of media companies from owning non-media companies. Correa claimed victory [CBC report] Saturday night over the results, which he argues are necessary to diffuse power. Opponents have claimed that the measures are aimed at solidifying power and quieting dissent, and have accused Correa of following the authoritarian model of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [JURIST news archive].
The referendum was first certified [JURIST report] by the Constitutional Court of Ecuador [official website, in Spanish] in February. In October, the Ecuadorian government announced it would revise a controversial austerity law following unrest [JURIST report] and a suspected coup attempt in September. Police officers fired tear gas at Correa, surrounded the hospital at which he was being treated and trapped him there for 12 hours while protesting the public service law, which they feared would reduce their pay and benefits. In September 2008, Ecuadorian voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution [JURIST report] that consolidated and significantly expanded the powers held by Correa, including the power to dissolve the legislature and pass laws by decree.