UK: Why Assange needs Ecuador and Ecuador needs Assange-CNN

June 24, 2012

Why Assange needs Ecuador and Ecuador needs Assange

Ashley Fantz

Cable News Network: June 20, 2012


Time was running out for Julian Assange. If the WikiLeaks frontman was going to make a move it would be soon.

Just days before Assange had lost his final bid in Britain’s highest court to stop his extradition to Sweden for questioning about sexual assault allegations. The court had set a July 7 deadline.

Though the sexual misconduct case has nothing to do with WikiLeaks, some of his supporters believe that if Assange is sent to Sweden, he would be vulnerable to extradition to the United States. WikiLeaks published a trove of State Department cables and secret documents, some of them classified, about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Assange is not currently facing criminal charges in the U.S.

So where in the world should Assange turn for refuge? He picked Ecuador, which says it will consider his application for asylum.

“It’s a very smart move to go there. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and Assange have mutual interests — they both support the idea that the U.S. is an imperial power that has to be checked,” said Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian international lawyer who’s worked high profile cases involving Latin America, Russia and Thailand. He said the information contained in the cables WikiLeaks released has helped in some of his cases.

Correa, a left-leaning economist, has railed against the United States in concert with allies in the region and elsewhere — Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolvia’s Evo Morales, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

As far as angering the Brits, Correa has shown he doesn’t mind doing that. In February, Correa called for sanctions against Britain for its long-running dispute with Argentina over who owns the Falkland Islands.

“From a Latin perspective, what a glorious thing to get Assange,” Amsterdam said. “You don’t have to be even anti-American to want to do that. When I’m in Guatemala, they still call the (U.S.) ‘the empire.’ There really is an almost universal hostility toward American foreign policy. Assange would be welcomed in many countries just for that fact.”

Jorge Leon, an Ecuadorian political analyst who lives in Quito, said that with presidential elections in Ecuador scheduled for next February giving Assange asylum in the country could be “useful to Correa to give himself a leftist image.”

“A lot of his base is leftist,” said Leon. “He has to feed that base.”


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