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Ecuador: the distant land of salt cathedrals and Incan ruins. Perhaps it would seem inappropriate that Julian Assange, someone of such world-famous notoriety, should want to re-locate to such a remote place; yet this, he desires, is his new paradise.
South America is laced with opportunity, yet consistently its leaders hold back major development through oppressive government; and this is the case in Ecuador. Again, something absolutely antithetical to Assange’s own coda: why would a man so satisfied at making government information available to the world wish to journey to a place where even basic press freedom is depleted? Its aggressive and totalitarian-minded president, Rafael Correa, frequently launches lawsuits against his own country’s media. It was even reported that riot police in Quito raided the offices of one of the country’s prominent publications, Vanguardia; where they confiscated computers and prevented publication for a week, “ostensibly as a punishment for labour law violations”. This is hardly the policy of a great hero of liberty and progress; and more a scene out of some dystopian novel.
Aside from the lack of political affinity between the two men, and the probable (and in vogue) anti-Americanism behind both Correa and Assange’s actions, there is a wider problem of injustice if Assange were to be extradited across the Atlantic for a potential death sentence. A charge against Assange in America would be on the basis of their principled government agenda – for being an impregnable force in intelligence and international security. Of course, some forget that WikiLeaks did more than expose the late great Muammar Gadhafi’s fixation on voluptuous blondes, or Silvio Berlusconi’s “vain and party-centred” lifestyle. It was indispensable in the exposure of American atrocities on Afghan civilians – arbitrary military shootings with little accountability, and Yemen talking the fall for American drones.
Ideally, this should be seen as Assange enforcing the contract between the state and the people. Governments work for the people, and if information that they shield from the people incriminates the government and its organs – such as the military, then it must be revealed. For all of this, some fear he would be executed for charges of terrorism.
If speculation of extradition to the USA from the Swedish legal system to face charges of espionage and terrorism (with a likely death sentence) are true, then it is deplorable. In an ideal world, Assange should face his charges of sexual assault in Sweden, and let the process run in its course. And it would end there. Maybe he could even go back and live in the Ecuadorean embassy?
Importantly, if it were intended as a smear on Assange’s name to bring into the realm of being a tainted figure, as well as give a looser opportunity for extradition to America, then it is clear that any such judgement would be based on calculated American distaste at his permeation of their government cables. I detest Assange purely for the reason of not facing a charge for something as serious as sexual assault in Sweden. Here, his egotism is undeniable, and this bid for safe passage to Ecuador is wholly consistent with such attention-seeking in believing he is absolutely ‘above the law’. He is, of course, the self-elected face and publicist of WikiLeaks. Britain, however, finds itself, unfortunately, between a rock (our morals – in not having him executed) and a hard place (American lust for him not to be let off scot-free).
Either way, Assange is far from being a saintly Bolivarian character; instead there is an air of deliberate and grimy arrogance to his conduct. Assange’s Embassy decision was legal magic. In this instance, he and Correa are firmly deserving of one another. However, when they sit down for ceviche and a pisco sour, they’ll probably realize how their views on liberty are, in fact, diametrically opposed – or, perhaps, they’ll simply have a laugh and a half at how they stuck two fingers up to the American government. Then again, for all his hocus pocus, he’s still in an embassy in London living off digestives and coffee.