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Understanding Ecuador libel law – Gringo Visas suing me for libel

I wanted to make a general announcement about a subject that is important for any expat to understand.  I am being sued for libel by Maite Duran, owner of Gringo Visas, and it seems likely that I will be convicted and go to prison.  This might seem crazy to you, especially if you are from North America where we enjoy a certain right to freedom of speech.  This freedom does not apply here in Ecuador and the libel law applies particularly to someone’s business.  If something you say can hurt their business, even if your comments are totally true, you can be sued for libel.  The consequences of a simple libel suit are a $12,000 fine and a minimum of 6 months in prison.  I made a brief commentary on Facebook about an actual case against Maite Duran that involves my friend and housemate Stephen Bloom.  My comments were rather conciliatory, as Maite had helped me with my visa process.  I knew that she had a new baby, as I do, and I expressed my condolences, because if she is convicted of her crimes she would spend 7-10 years in prison.  But I said nothing harsh or even critical about her as a person.  I, like most gringos, don’t fully fathom the nature of this libel law.  Again you could get food poisoning from a restaurant, and if you wrote in public forum about this and it hurt the business you could be sued for libel.  It’s crazy!  I have received so much support from other expats, especially from those who have had dealings with Maite Duran, and for this I am grateful.  My sense is that if I am convicted and go to prison, as hard as this will be for me, my wife, and my baby, it will hurt Gringo Visas even more.  Perhaps some justice will prevail in the end.  If anyone would like more details please contact me via messenger on Facebook or to my email.  Louisb333@hotmail.com. Thank you so much.

Name: Louis Bourgeois
Phone: 418-5383
Email: Louisb333@hotmail.com

  • David

    She helped me a while back to get some documents from the US. When I went to the notary here to finish the process, I met up with one of her workers. He had no idea why he was there or that the process that I was doing was even possible in Ecuador. Everything took 4X as long as she said it would with this guy who knew nothing. When I told her that I had posted it on the Ecuador Expats page, she threatened to sue for libel. It was not that big of deal to me either so I just took it down. Seems to be a pattern here

  • Louis Bourgeois

    Wow! This is really good to know….I have an attorney but am looking for more legal counsel….thank you for some good news!

    • StillWatching

      I showed your ad to my attorney and here is his reaction:

      “Well, in my opinion the post is not very accurate. In Ecuador there are two types of criminal responsibility. The first is when you commit a crime and the second when you commit a contravention. If a person slanders (calumnia) then he commits a crime. If a person libels (difama) then he commits a contravention. To slander you have to say something about someone that involves him or acuses him falsely of committing a criminal felony; example: Duran is a thief or Duran stole my bag. To libel (defamacion) you just have to utter expressions of discredit or dishonor. Example: Duran is a bad person or a bad professional you shouldn’t hire her for professional work. But actually the word libel, doesn’t appears in the criminal code. Yes, if something is true, it is not defamatory.

      For slander you can go to jail for between six months and two years. For utter expression of discredit the penalty is between fifteen to thirty days. These are not mandatory sentences.

      • Louis Bourgeois

        What I shared in my original commentary, for which I am being sued, is that Maite is under investigation for some serious crimes….this is a true statement. And I shared that if she was convicted of these crimes she would likely spend 7-10 years in prison….calumnia o difama?

        • StillWatching

          If you can prove, IN FACT that she is under investigation as well as the likelihood of the sentence you have suggested, neither. IF there is an investigation and she is not charged, the chances of you proving that she WAS under investigation are slim and you have some serious exposure.

          Wise up. Stop seeking advice on a public forum. What you have already done may be seen as a back door attempt to defame this person without the exposure. Judges in Ecuadorian courts are not fools, nor do they like being trifled with.

          • Genie

            Is there a way to warn people away from poor service without causing trouble to oneself? Such as, If you are going to hire some visa work, email me for my opinion of the best and the not so great?

          • StillWatching

            Genie, there is no need to hide it like that. I urge people to post their remarks publicly and two forums that allow you to do so are Cuenca High Life and Gringo Post. Of course you have to be judicious, accurate and fair in your comments, but don’t allow the chilling effect of those that use false beliefs about defamation laws here, to silence you.

          • Virginia W.

            Share this post. People should work from there.

  • Virginia W.

    You can look the case up in the Magistrate’s website, you can even ask for a copy of the case (and all the others) because is public record.
    Check Funcion Judicial “Consulta de Causas”

    • Which one? There are appear to be many within EC. Links are useful. This would be the first actual facts (or assertions I suppose, but formal/legal ones at least) I’ve heard/seen about any of this kerfuffle which would be refreshing vs all the words spilled.

      • Virginia W.

        http://consultas.funcionjudicial.gob.ec/informacionjudicial/public/informacion.jsf
        If you want to know if someone is suing somebody, you need to put their name on Actor/Ofendido
        If you want to know if someone is being sued, then put the name on Demandado/Procesado.
        Sometimes it seems like they are updating the information and not all the info would show. I know this because if I check later or other day I can see more info.

        • Interesting – thank you – I looked it up and found the case but as with all discussion of this case it was sadly lacking in actual evidence that would indicate whether any assertions were fanciful or real. It was at least heavy on facts about the settlement (if not the motivation for the settlement), so there is that at least – anyone speculating about the settlement from this point is clearly not doing their homework and can easily be disregarded, but likewise anyone speculating about the underlying assertions is likely just talking about something they don’t know so should also be disregarded. Such is the legal process. This search function can be useful to check up on any service provider though, which is great. Cheers

          • Virginia W.

            Yes, I read the report. For more details one can go to the Fiscalia and request a hard copy.
            In theory, since is public information, they should let ANYONE have a copy. In theory.

  • Virginia W.

    Use her own cases to prove your point. Ask for a copy of other cases at the Magistrate’s Office (The Funcion Judicial Bldg) are public record.

  • Virginia W.
  • Idea

    As has been pointed to you, in reply to the identical post at FB, MD has no chance of winning her case unless and until she can prove that your post indeed harmed her business.

    Your wild hypotheses about being thrown in jail and fined $12K on the basis of hearsay accusations filed in court is what make the Gringo population fearful of publishing their opinions about their experiences.

    Unfortunately, the wild interpretation of the libel law came right from the mouth of some unscrupulous attorneys working with Gringos. We received one such thread from an attorney, alleging that the EC law prevents us from sharing an ugly visa story – money paid, no visa processed by that attorney.

  • Mike

    Her business isn’t by word of mouth. It’s by gorilla advertising which insures she’ll always have new fish to fry.

  • Adam Mileusnic

    I always hear people using the ‘freedom of speech’ thing like this.

    I’m from the UK, I can’t comment on US laws, but we also have the possibility to raise criminal claims against people who lie about us in public. I’m not saying this is what you’ve done, what I’m saying is this is not Communist China and the laws are comparable to other countries.

    I’m a graphic designer. If someone lied and said I was stealing money and not doing the work, and this started to affect my reputation, damn right I would raise a case – here or in the UK. Free speech should come with some responsibility to tell the truth. On the other hand if I’d let someone down and they told other people, fine, I couldn’t argue with that. The problem is lying. It really gets on my nerves when people cry ‘free speech’ and equate this with being able to say absolutely anything they want, to the detriment of others, whether it’s true or not. Again Louis I’m not saying that you lied, just that I don’t think this constitutes encroachment on free speech… and if it does, perhaps that’s a trade off worth making in order to defend the truth.

  • weilunion

    I am being threatened by a ‘dog care’school’ for I posted a post and in the body mentioned that ‘the owner was a monster’. Does this mean I can be held libel for
    libel? And if so, does the owner have to prove damages, or are the words enough? If so, what am I facing? Should I worry?

    So many ‘service providers’ use defamation laws to squelch dissent and
    thus leaves the community victim to their practices.