The images of Metropolitan police dragging Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London made citizens around the world furious. Many warn that his extradition to the US will lead to the criminalization of standard journalistic practices.
Political instability has swept across Ecuador since revelations of widespread corruption in Moreno’s inner circle emerged. The scandal coincided with Moreno’s turn towards neoliberal economic reforms, from implementing a massive IMF loan package to the gradual and total embrace and support for the US foreign policy in the region.
In his bid to satisfy Washington and deflect from his own problems, Moreno was all too eager to sacrifice Assange.
WikiLeaks, was, and remains, an internet space that became famous for revealing vast caches of American military digital video, text records, and diplomatic correspondence; then with the contents of problematic emails stored on servers at the Democratic National Committee that may have cost Hillary Clinton her election; as well as caches of CIA materials and methods.
Assange had reportedly been working with Chelsea Manning to break into Defence Department highly secret electronic vaults by hacking password protection for yet more highly protected material.
WikiLeaks’s decision to re-publish the details of Moreno’s use of off-shore bank accounts in Panama, infamously titled INA Papers after the name of the shell corporation at the center of the scandal (INA Investment Corporation), appear to be the main cause for the president’s decision to expel Assange from the embassy.
However, bear in mind that U.S. police have also been collecting people’s data from computers by all nondestructive means for some time now under the third-party doctrine. These laws have been used to justify the financial surveillance regime for decades. So there’s question: What’s the difference?
The IMF Deal and a Turn Towards the US
The pressing reason why Ecuador wanted Assange out of its embassy was the country’s huge debt. The OPEC member was amenable to seek IMF loan package to repay Chinese loan of $6.5 billion and to boost its economy.
During the recent meeting of the Executive Board of the IMF, the financial body approved a loan package of $4.2 billion to the government of Lenin Moreno for what it called a “ more dynamic, sustainable, and inclusive economy for the benefit of all Ecuadorians.”
The agreement coincided with layoffs of over 10,000 public sector workers, in addition to the ongoing policy of slashing in public and social spending, a decrease in the level of minimum wage and the removal of secure work protections that marked the sharp neoliberal turn of the Ecuadorian government under Moreno.
It’s unlikely that Moreno wasn’t aware of the ramifications of tying up the country with IMF loans, such as “labor flexibility” — also known as mass layoffs — and privatization. After all, he was serving as vice president under Rafael Correa when Correa kicked the IMF out of the country in 2007.
But despite the U.S. dangling what can only be described as a financial stranglehold over Ecuador for its own gain — whether it be more open markets in Ecuador for private investment or Julian Assange in custody — Moreno plowed ahead.
After they got IMF’s loan in February, Chelsea Manning received a subpoena for information her legal counsel says is:
“Duplicative of evidence already in the possession of the grand jury, and was not needed in order for US Attorneys to obtain an indictment of Mr Assange.”
For refusing to aid that investigation, Manning spent 28 days in isolation.
On April 2nd, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno disparaged WikiLeaks in public remarks, leveling wild, but unsupported claims that WikiLeaks had intercepted his private conversations and photos of his bedroom.
On April 11th, the Ecuadorian embassy handed Julian Assange over to London police.
Ecuador was also pretty eager to settle a long-simmering dispute with Chevron Corp, and it was time to clean up whatever has to be cleaned and try to solve this issue which would be best Ecuador, Chevron and the U.S. Moreno’s move to clean up the contamination/evidence may be a signal that the Ecuadorian government is looking to dismiss the claims.
Country’s former consul general in London, Fidel Narvaez said:
“They want to use Julian Assange as a scapegoat to distract from the INA Papers scandal. The foreign policy of the Ecuadorian government changed dramatically and it is now completely subservient to foreign pressures, especially from the US and the IMF, as it always was before the Citizen’s Revolution.”