There’s more at stake in Ecuador’s presidential election on Sunday than whether the leftist legacy of outgoing President Rafael Correa will be extended with a victory by his former vice president.
If pro-business candidate Guillermo Lasso upsets former Vice President Lenin Moreno, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for five years, is likely to lose his safe haven.
Correa granted Assange asylum after accepting his argument that a Swedish arrest warrant on sexual assault charges was politically motivated.
Lasso takes a decidedly different view. On Feb. 20, a day after he finished second to Moreno in the first round of presidential voting to qualify for Sunday’s runoff, Lasso was reported by Agence France-Presse as saying the London embassy “isn’t a hotel” and that Ecuador was in no position to indefinitely finance the Australian-born Assange’s care and feeding.
Lasso, a former bank executive, described Assange’s presence in the embassy as “an unsustainable situation” and said his inclination upon assuming the presidency would be to give Assange 30 days to clear out.
Assange’s walking to Ecuador’s embassy in London’s tony Knightsbridge neighborhood in 2012 and asking for asylum was no random choice. That same year he had conducted an interview of Correa for an English-language Russian TV channel, and the two apparently bonded during the experience.
Also, WikiLeaks had already published information that, in Correa’s eyes, cast the United States in a bad light. In 2011, Correa had expelled U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges after WikiLeaks published State Department cables indicating staff there thought Correa was too passive in the face of police corruption.
Over the years WikiLeaks has published millions of stolen U.S. military, diplomatic and intelligence documents. Just this month, the anti-secrecy organization shared online nearly 9,000 documents showing how the CIA conducts surveillance through various forms of technology, including computers, smartphones, cars and TVs.
Source: Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise
By: Chris Kraul and Pablo Jaramillo Viteri
31 March 2017