Diego Rivas has been gored in the shoulder, knocked to the dirt and trampled by snorting bulls. But the 29-year-old has always dusted himself off, picked up his red cape and gone back to the only job he knows: being a matador.
Now voters in this Andean nation may put him on the unemployment line.
On May 7, Ecuadorians will be asked to vote on a 10-point referendum that could give the executive branch more control over the judiciary, establish a commission to regulate media content, and rein in financial institutions and media conglomerates by prohibiting them from holding investments in other industries.
But the question that seems to be stirring up the most emotion here is one that would make it illegal to kill animals for entertainment.
President Rafael Correa has started campaigning for an across-the-board “Yes” vote in what is seen as a referendum on his 5-year-old administration. While his center-left policies and ties to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez have alienated some in the business community, Correa remains a popular figure and is expected to fare well in the vote.
But on the question of bullfighting, he’s bumping up against a legion of aficionados and those who see the vote as an encroachment on personal liberties.
At a recent bullfight were Rivas was the star matador, crowds chanted “With or without Correa in Ambato we have bullfights!”
In February, some 15,000 people attended a bullfight and cockfight in Quito called “Bulls and Cocks for Freedom.”
When the referendum was first formulated early this year, it also banned cockfighting. But in March, Correa said that because the event does not necessarily imply the death of the birds, it should be exempt.
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