Ecuador... a 'Whistleblower' Refuge?
Nov 19, 2013
Ecuador is a country that seemingly has it all… majestic mountains, lush valleys, endless beaches, colonial cities and… a government that offers asylum to those seeking/needing it.
For a country the size of Ecuador – only 283, 520 square kilometers – it has certainly garnered it’s share of media coverage regarding the protection of those who have nowhere else to go.
We’re referring specifically to the two most recent cases involving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and more recently, former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. Although Mr. Snowden never made it to Ecuador, he was welcomed with open arms… and Mr. Assange is still living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, England, with no apparent plans to leave.
So how does a small, unassuming country like Ecuador get involved in such worldly political shenanigans? By having a President like Rafael Correa, that’s how. Here are three points to consider as you continue to mull over that question:
1. Rafael Correa is not your typical Latin American leader...
A US university-trained economist, Mr. Correa is smart and educated; he isn’t naïve regarding his country’s situation from a global perspective.
That said, there is the chance that this all could have blown up in his face… providing a safe-haven for Edward Snowden could have threatened Ecuadorian goods receiving preferential access to US markets under the US-Andean Trade Preference Act.
2. President Correa is a member of ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) – an alliance of Latin American leftist governments priding themselves on ‘anti-imperialist’ credentials…
Taunting the US is practically part of ALBA’s job description. The previous de facto leader of this group was Hugo Chávez, the socialist President of Venezuela, who passed away in March of this year. It’s possible, that Ecuador’s Rafael Correa is putting his ducks in a row to assume this role.
After all, Ecuador hardly has the size, clout or – possibly most importantly – surplus of money that Venezuela did… subsequently winning Chávez influence and publicity. However, by putting Ecuador smack-dab in the middle of high-profile cases such as those of Mr. Assange, and now Mr. Snowden, Mr. Correa may have found a cheaper way to claim ALBA’s top spot.
3. Rafael Correa himself is not exactly an ambassador for media and information freedom…
The President of Ecuador doesn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with the views of either Julian Assange or Edward Snowden.
In fact, a new media law in Ecuador outlines a variety of provisions that increase Mr. Correa’s ability to attack and censor significant opinions of his own government. In addition, media outlets may be fined if they don’t report on news that the government feels should be reported on.
Further, Mr. Correa signed a ruling in 2011 allowing the government to monitor the activities of all international NGOs with offices in Ecuador, essentially withholding their authorization to operate if they resort to ‘political interference’ or ‘attack public security and peace’.
Despite the picture that these points regarding Rafael Correa may paint, many Ecuadorian’s hold him in high regard. Before he won the presidency in 2007, Ecuador went through seven presidents in 10 years. Although he has indicated that he will not seek another term (he’s currently in his second), having him on board has brought political continuity to this small country.
As for Assange and Snowden? It’s no wonder they would look at Ecuador for asylum! Aside from open arms, it’s a beautiful, warm and welcoming country that anyone would be lucky to call home… whether they’re running from something or not…
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