Opinion: Assange’s appeal to Ecuador is no surprise

June 25th, 2012

The WikiLeak’s founder won admiration and gratitude in the South American nation back in 2010 – Published on AlJazeera, by Richard Gizbert, June 21, 2012. (Linked on our blogs with Nobel Peace Prize for Bradley Manning).

Julian Assange requested asylum in Ecuador and is sheltering in the South American country’s London embassy [EPA]. Julian Assange’s attempt to gain asylum in Ecuador is just the latest turn in one of the biggest media stories of our time. The WikiLeaks co-founder is currently in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, which issued this statement on June 19:   

This afternoon Mr Julian Assange arrived at the Ecuadorean embassy seeking political asylum from the Ecuadorean government. We have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito. While the department assesses Mr Assange’s application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorean government.

This story goes back to 2010, which news junkies may come to remember as the year of WikiLeaks, Assange’s online whistle blowing machine … //

… Why Ecuador?

Anti-American sentiments run high there. In April last year, Ecuador announced that it was expelling US ambassador Heather Hodges, over claims she made in diplomatic cables of widespread corruption within the Ecuadorean police force. The cables were written with the frankness that comes when the author believes their work is confidential. But they were released to the world via Wikileaks.

The country’s deputy foreign minister first raised the prospect of sheltering Assange in 2010, when American politicians were calling him an enemy of the state.

In mid-2011, I attended a WikiLeaks event at the stately manor house where Assange was under house arrest. Many people spoke that day, but I remember one in particular.

He was Ecuadorean, an official at the embassy in London. Of Assange, he said something along the lines of: “We Ecuadoreans always knew Washington did not approve of our president, the same way it does not approve of Hugo Chavez or other leftist leaders in Latin America. But we never knew the extent of American animosity or interference in our country’s affairs. WikiLeaks and the almost 1,500 diplomatic cables originating for the US embassy in Ecuador changed all that. They made the murky world of diplomacy crystal clear. Our country will always be grateful to Julian Assange. That is why I am here today, to support him and his organization.”

Last month, Assange interviewed President Rafael Correa on his talk show, which is broadcast on the state-funded Russian news channel, RTV. Correa happens to be locked into a Chavez-like struggle with Ecuadorean media, most of which is owned by right-wingers. He has attracted criticism for going too far in his response.

But the two men appeared to get on well during their 25 minute online chat. Assange described Correa as “a leftwing populist who has changed the face of Ecuador.”

Toward the end of their discussion, Correa told Assange: “Cheer up. Welcome to the club of the persecuted” … (full text and video online*, 22.59 min).

Links:

* this video also on YouTube: The Listening Post – The Midterms media players, 22.59 min, uploaded by AlJazeeraEnglish on June 11, 20102;

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