Why Ecuador stands shoulder to shoulder with Assange
Ecuador’s defiant decision to grant Julian Assange political asylum shows how far the country has come in shaking off shackles that not so long ago had reduced it to a plaything of the United States.
From 1960, the Central Intelligence Agency plotted and planned to destabilise the elected populist government led by José María Velasco Ibarra because it refused to break off links with Castro’s Cuba and crackdown on the left.
Philip Agee was a senior CIA officer in Ecuador during that period. Years later, after denouncing the CIA, he blew the whistle in a book called Inside the Company. Agee revealed how the CIA organised the infiltration of trade unions, political parties and social organisations at the highest levels in Ecuador. Where no suitable organisations existed, the CIA created them, complete with headed paper and committees.
Agee's account shows how the CIA used bribery, intimidation, bugging and forgery. He spent four years in Ecuador penetrating Ecuadorian politics and, by his own admission, subverting and destroying the political fabric of an already wretchedly poor and unstable country.
“CIA financing of conservative groups in a quasi-religious campaign against Cuba and ‘atheistic communism’ helped to seriously weaken Velasco's power among the poor, primarily Indians, who had voted overwhelmingly for him, but who were even more deeply committed to their religion,” says William Blum in his Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.
CIA agents would bomb churches or right-wing organizations and make it appear to be the work of leftists. They would march in left-wing parades displaying signs and shouting slogans of a very provocative anti-military nature, designed to antagonize the armed forces and hasten a coup.
A series of interventions by the armed forces that began in November 1961 culminated in a coup in July 1963 when the presidential palace in Quito was surrounded by tanks and troops. Civil liberties were suspended, leftists arrested and the 1964 elections cancelled. At the local CIA headquarters, champagne corks popped. It wasn’t until 1979 that civilian rule was restored.
Today’s president, Rafael Correa, has repudiated the country’s foreign debt and has placed the country in solidarity with other radical regimes in South America like Bolivia and Venezuela. The decision to give Assange asylum is consistent with Ecuador’s determination to assert its political independence from Washington.
The foreign minister’s statement that insists Assange is in danger from the United States (while rejecting the UK’s threat to storm its embassy) is well founded. Washington would like nothing better than to extradite Assange to the US to face trial for espionage alongside Bradley Manning, the soldier who allegedly collaborated with WikiLeaks.
Key figures have cleared the path. Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has denounced fellow citizen Assange for publishing previously secret cables that exposed America’s crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several senior US senators have called for Assange to be tried for publishing the cables sent by American embassies.
Washington's aim is to put Assange on show trial with Manning. By having them both in the dock at the same time, the US/FBI hope to "prove" a conspiracy between the two men and have them convicted for treason – with a sentence of life (until death) in jail.
Shortly after the dramatic video of the 2007 Baghdad airstrike which killed Iraqi journalists was released by WikiLeaks in 2010, Assange was in Sweden where he applied for residency. After sexual relations with two women, an arrest warrant was issued but soon withdrawn. He was questioned by police and allowed to leave the country. Within 10 days, the investigation was reopened by another prosecutor and upgraded to alleged rape. His residency request was denied soon afterwards.
Assange is not charged but wanted for questioning. Following his arrest in Britain last year, Assange volunteered to present himself for questioning at the Swedish embassy in London. This was rejected by the country’s right-wing government. Who can doubt then that if he reaches Stockholm, Assange will be questioned about the sex accusations and then handed over to the Americans who, by then, will have an arrest warrant?
17 August 2012