Citizen Link, direct communication and accountability between President and people

By Andrés Reliche

Quito, Nov 28 (Andes) - The Citizen Link, program broadcast every Saturday so that the president presents public accountability regarding the country's administration, reaches this Saturday its edition N°400, with the support of the citizens.

The numbers of the weekly report (seventy-two thousand minutes with an average audience of 800,000 citizens live) set an unprecedented record in this South American country where the rulers, once elected- accustomed to maintain distance from people who with their votes brought him to power.

Correa, with his straightforward way, schedules the agenda every week, since national and international media are nourished from his extensive information.

He reports, in a teaching language, on a variety of topics such as pro forma budget, plan to enroll social security for housewives, ministerial meetings, agreements with foreign governments, administrative efficiency plans, politic threats to his government project, among many others.

But it also shows a political leader (average of 80% approval) in a very human dimension, since he gives small details of his life, and also acknowledges when he may make mistakes, like any other citizen.

"Who does not make mistakes? This is not perfection, this is about communicating with our people. We are workers, we get tired, we have moments of joy, moments of anger, sadness, we are people of flesh and bone as any of you", said President Correa on Saturday, during the audience # 399.

The program emerged as an initiative of President Rafael Correa and his first radio broadcast, which took place on January 20, 2007, just five days after the economist and former university professor (currently 51 years old) came to power, just after an overwhelming electoral victory over banana magnate Alvaro Noboa (57% of votes).

The first link was held at Palacio de Carondelet -headquarters of the government- and lasted an hour. Here, plans and projects that would carry out the scheme were discussed. "This is a new style of government where the president is at the disposal of his people, answering their concerns and questions", Correa had explained.

Fifty-three stations were linked to the first program, now there are connections with more than 450 means of communication.

But the origin of the Citizen Link goes back to the time when Correa was still a candidate and his campaign tours were paused -on Saturdays- to communicate with citizens via a radio link, says Arturo Tello, current host of the program, who accompanies the political leader since before his election.

"A master class in public administration"

"During his campaign, candidate Rafael Correa had the idea to maintain radio contact every Saturday. This is since 2006. When he started doing tours around the country, wherever he was, at 09:00 o'clock in the morning he stopped. If he was on the road, he stopped the caravan or travel and did the radio link during the election campaign", commented Tello to Andes.

Once Correa took office (on January 15, 2007), he decided to implement a mechanism for communication with citizens, so that they know the decisions he made to benefit the country, remembers Arturo Tello, currently accompanying President during the Link emission, and who previously served as undersecretary of Communication.

At its inception, journalists and stakeholders were invited to the program, but it began to evolve by the need of further communication of the activities of the president and government programs and policies. The scheme went from participation to public accountability.