For Ecuador’s 15 million inhabitants, Sunday’s presidential election runoff will pose a fundamental question: whether to continue with a leftwing government that has reduced poverty but also brought environmental destruction and authoritarian censorship, or to take a chance on a pro-business banker who promises economic growth but is accused of siphoning money to offshore accounts.
But they are not the only ones for whom the result will be critically important. Thousands of miles away, in the country’s tiny embassy in central London, Julian Assange will be watching closely to see if his four and a half years of cramped asylum could be coming to an abrupt, enforced end.
Guillermo Lasso, the businessman and leading opposition candidate, has vowed that if he wins, the WikiLeaks founder’s time in the embassy will be up. Lasso has said he would “cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate”, because his presence in the Knightsbridge embassy was a burden on Ecuadorian taxpayers.
116 Environmental Defenders Were Murdered Last Year, Mostly in Latin America: Interview with Billy Kyte
‘As we continue to mark Earth Day, we look at a new report that finds killings of environmental activists on the rise, with indigenous communities hardest hit. According to Global Witness, at least 116 environmentalists were killed last year — more than two a week. Three-quarters of the deaths occurred in Central and South America. Just recently, three indigenous Tolupán leaders were gunned down during an anti-mining protest in northern Honduras, which has become the most dangerous country for environmental activists. We speak to Billy Kyte, campaigner for Global Witness and author of their new report, “How Many More?“‘ (Democracy Now!)
‘[…] Ny has never properly explained why she will not come to London, just as the Swedish authorities have never explained why they refuse to give Assange a guarantee that they will not extradite him on to the US under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington. In December 2010, the Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US before the European Arrest Warrant was issued.
Perhaps an explanation is that, contrary to its reputation as a liberal bastion, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” – including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and WikiLeaks cables. In the summer of 2010, Assange had been in Sweden to talk about WikiLeaks revelations of the war in Afghanistan – in which Sweden had forces under US command.
The Americans are pursuing Assange because WikiLeaks exposed their epic crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of tens of thousands of civilians, which they covered up; and their contempt for sovereignty and international law, as demonstrated vividly in their leaked diplomatic cables.’
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‘Six Ecuadorean police officers have been given 12 years in jail for trying to assassinate President Rafael Correa. The six took part in a mutiny in 2010 during which officers besieged the president at a Quito hospital.
One of Mr Correa’s bodyguards was killed when the mutineers opened fire on the president’s car as he finally left the hospital after 12 hours. The police were protesting over cuts to their benefits, but the demonstrations snowballed into a full-scale mutiny.
A lawyer for the officers said they were considering an appeal. A total of 40 people have been convicted for their role in the mutiny.’
Two years later, Julian Assange remains trapped in Ecuadorian Embassy: Interview with Wikileaks lawyer Michael Ratner
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A judge in the US has ruled that lawyers representing Amazonian villagers used bribes to secure compensation worth billions of dollars from oil company Chevron in Ecuador. The latest ruling means that the Amazonian villagers cannot use US courts to enforce the ruling against the American oil company. Chevron had been found guilty in Ecuador of causing environmental damage to the Lago Agrio region. The legal team says they will appeal.
In 2011, an Ecuadorean judge ordered Chevron to pay $18.2bn (£11.4bn) for “extensively polluting” the Lago Agrio region. Ecuador’s highest court last year upheld the verdict against Chevron, but reduced the amount of compensation to $9.5bn. The alleged environmental damage was done by Texaco between 1964 and 1990. Texaco was later acquired by Chevron. The American oil firm has always maintained that it cleaned up the area before handing over the oil field to the Ecuadorean government.
It argued that it only lost the case because the legal team representing the villagers paid nearly $300,000 in bribes in Ecuador. US district judge Lewis Kaplan in New York has now ruled that Steven Donziger’s legal team used “corrupt means” to win the 2011 case. Mr Kaplan described the evidence against Mr Donziger’s team as “voluminous”.
The Ecuadorian government was negotiating a secret $1bn deal with a Chinese bank to drill for oil under the Yasuni national park in the Amazon while pursuing a high-profile scheme to keep the oil under the ground in return for international donations, according to a government document seen by the Guardian.
The proposed behind-the-scenes deal, which traded drilling access in exchange for Chinese lending for Ecuadorian government projects, will dismay green and human rights groups who had praised Ecuador for its pioneering Yasuni-ITT Initiative to protect the forest. Yasuni is one of the most biodiverse places in the world and home to indigenous peoples – some of whom are living in what Ecuador’s constitution calls “voluntary isolation”.
The initiative – which was abandoned by Ecuador’s government last year– is seen as a way to protect the Amazon, biodiversity and indigenous peoples’ territories, as well as combat climate change, break Ecuador’s dependency on oil and avoid causing the kind of social and environmental problems already caused by oil operations in the Ecuadorian rainforest.
Ecuador on Saturday stressed it wanted the number of US military staff on its territory reduced, and warned it also would not allow US “espionage equipment.”
“It just makes no sense that an outsized number of US military staff, who report to the US Southern Command, would be here, at the US Embassy,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters.
President Rafael Correa said Wednesday he would ask the United States to withdraw American military personnel assigned to its embassy in Quito.
Correa said he became aware of what he described as the oversized presence after learning that four US military personnel were aboard an Ecuadoran military helicopter that came under fire on October 3 near the border with Colombia.
Correa, an economist by training who has long railed against America’s “imperialism” in its Latin American backyard, said Quito was “already taking measures” to address the issue.
In Washington, a US official said that the 50 military personnel cited by Correa were “more than double the actual number.
Britain is “violating” the human rights of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by its continued refusal to allow him to leave London, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa told AFP in an interview Friday.
Speaking during a visit to Paris, Correa said Assange’s future was “in Britain’s hands” as the Australian-born activist marks almost a year-and-a-half spent holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London.
“If (they) want to keep him there for 30 years, he’ll stay there 30 years, but that would violate his human rights,” Correa said.
Correa maintained that the offer of asylum he first made to Assange in August 2012 remained open, and added that he had the right “to demand asylum in the country of his choice”.
The US debt is merely a fiction. The real problem lies in those who run the economy, because they protect the interests of the financial capitalists, Ecuadorian economist and President Rafael Correa told RT Spanish.
Correa believes that what he calls ‘supremacy of capital’ is what makes the world immoral. The recent economic crises in the US and Europe did not undermine the foundations of their economies, as they retain the production capabilities, science and technology. Their problem is political.
“It’s all about scrambling for power,” Correa told RT. “This is a political rather than economic crisis; this is a problem of social accord,” he said about the US public debt crisis.
The tiny nation of Ecuador is sitting on a lucrative oil reserve — some 846 million barrels of heavy crude. But that oil also happens to be right under a large, biodiverse rain forest. There’d be some obvious environmental problems with digging it up.
And so, in 2007, Ecuador President Rafael Correa came up with a innovative proposal. He’d ask wealthy countries and donors to pay Ecuador $3.6 billion to leave that oil untouched.
It’d be an elegant way to help tackle climate change, he explained. The carbon would stay out of the atmosphere. Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park, one of the most biologically diverse spots on Earth, would remain unharmed. And Ecuador would be compensated for the billions in foregone oil revenue. (The three oil fields in Yasuní make up about one-fifth of Ecuador’s oil reserves.)
The problem? Those wealthy donors never materialized. Spain chipped in a couple million. So did the Andean Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. The U.N. and other private individuals raised some funds. But in the end, Ecuador only raised $13 million, a far cry from the $3.6 billion Correa had sought.
And so, on Thursday, Correa said he was abandoning the proposal altogether. ”The world has failed us,” he told the country in a televised speech. ”It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change.”
The Australian has been living inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London for more than a year as part of his campaign to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sex crimes against two women – claims he denies.
Assange fears that if he travels to Sweden he will be forcibly taken to the US to face questioning over documents published by WikiLeaks.
A statement from the Ecuadorean government said: “One year ago today Ecuador took the decision to award asylum to Julian Assange, a journalist who feared political persecution after publishing information sensitive to the US government that exposed war crimes, killings, torture and other human rights abuses that would otherwise never have come to light.
“After thoroughly examining the evidence, the government of Ecuador concluded that it shared Julian Assange’s concerns that there is a real and present danger to his freedoms.”
The statement said the recent guilty verdict against the WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning and attempts to prosecute Edward Snowden for leaking information about US surveillance underlined why Ecuador granted asylum.
The U.S. National Security Agency has targeted most Latin American countries in its spying programs, with Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico ranking among those of highest priority for the U.S. intelligence agency, a leading Brazilian newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the fugitive former American intelligence contractor, O Globo newspaper said the NSA programs went beyond military affairs to what it termed “commercial secrets.”
These included petroleum in Venezuela and energy in Mexico, according to a graphic O Globo identified as being from the NSA and dated February of this year.
Also swept up in what O Globo termed as U.S. spying were Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and El Salvador.
by Rory Carroll
Ecuador is not considering Edward Snowden‘s asylum request and never intended to facilitate his flight from Hong Kong, president Rafael Correa said, as the whistleblower made a personal plea to Quito for his case to be heard.
Snowden was Russia’s responsibility and would have to reach Ecuadorean territory before the country would consider any asylum request, the president said in an interview with the Guardian on Monday.
“Are we responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical. The country that has to give him a safe conduct document is Russia.”
The president, speaking at the presidential palace in Quito, said his government did not intentionally help Snowden travel from Hong Kong to Moscow with a temporary travel pass. “It was a mistake on our part,” he added.
Asked if he thought the former NSA contractor would ever make it to Quito, he replied: “Mr Snowden’s situation is very complicated, but in this moment he is in Russian territory and these are decisions for the Russian authorities.”
On whether Correa would like to meet him, the president said: “Not particularly. He’s a very complicated person. Strictly speaking, Mr Snowden spied for some time.”
The comments contrasted with expressions of gratitude the 30-year-old fugitive issued hours later, before Correa’s views had been published.