US critical of Ecuador over free speech

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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — The U.S. State Department is expressing concern about what it calls increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and association in Ecuador.

Spokesman John Kirby said in a statement issued Thursday that Washington is particularly concerned with a decision by President Rafael Correa's government to initiate steps to dissolve the country's last remaining press freedom group, Fundamedios.

The statement also called on Correa's government to uphold its international commitments to respect free expression and association as fundamental democratic rights.

Correa issued a decree last month related to renewed activity of the Cotopaxi volcano that included restrictions such as banning public assembly.

Critics noted that the decree's timing coincided with protests by indigenous activists angry with government plans to drill for oil and extract minerals on their traditional lands in the Amazon.

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