In 1999 I took a backpack and my life savings to South America, intending to spend six months traversing as much of the continent as I could possibly fit in. I landed in Ecuador and my plans changed almost immediately. I fell in love with the country and its people and ended up spending over half my time there.
I arrived a few days after the banks had collapsed in a grim neoliberal foreshadowing as to what was going to happen in the States a decade later. Bank accounts were frozen as the government put salvaging the banks above feeding the people. There was anger and rioting, tear gas and rubber bullets, and a brass band. Always, there was a brass band. Sometimes shirtless, often shoeless, with a few dinged-up instruments creating a wild cacophony of joy to riot to. A tiny country with the equator running through three distinct topographies — the coast, the alps and the jungle — its claim to being “el mitad del mundo” rings true. It feels like you are living in the heart of the world. It is life, concentrated. And its people seem more real and more alive than any I have encountered in my many travels.
Which is why I was not surprised when this plucky nation knowingly took on the wrath of the western empire in granting Julian Assange political asylum in 2012. While my own sycophantic country Australia pathetically ignored the plight of its own citizen, Ecuador defiantly strode forward, locked eyes with the US-centralized power establishment, and did what no one else was willing to.
Granting political asylum to a journalist who is being persecuted for speaking truth to power was the right thing to do, and for a few fine years Ecuador showed the world its soul with this brave act. You can understand my dismay, then, to see President Lenín Moreno flushing it all down the toilet by now telling that same journalist that he will no longer receive political asylum if he ever again speaks truth to power.
Ecuador's president Moreno: @JulianAssange will remain isolated indefinitely as he has "surpassed the limits of freedom of expression" (that Moreno invented) and Ecuador will "prevent him speaking about politics… That’s why we cut his communication".https://t.co/bhpeCe8pAP
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 31, 2018
In an interview with German publication Deutsche Welle, Ecuador’s president confirmed reports that revoking Assange’s political asylum is being actively considered and remains an option on the table, saying that his administration will “take a decision” if the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief refuses to comply with instructions to cease voicing his political opinions online. Saying that Assange’s public geopolitical analysis has “surpassed the limits of freedom of expression,” Moreno’s conditions on Assange’s continued asylum amount to a demand that Assange cease to practice the journalism he was granted political asylum for in the first place.
“Let’s not forget the conditions of his asylum prevent him from speaking about politics or intervening in the politics of other countries. That’s why we cut his communication,” Moreno said.
WikiLeaks has publicly and repeatedly denied that Assange ever made any agreement to refrain from political commentary as a condition of his asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and indeed we have never heard any talk about any such agreement until after Moreno took office last year. Assange has now been in effective isolation without any access to visitors, phone calls or internet for two months, reportedly due to a tweet Assange made criticizing the Spanish government’s oppressive response to the Catalan independence movement.
Ecuador’s previous president, Rafael Correa, has denounced the Moreno administration’s isolation of Assange as a form of torture.
Claims made by Ecuador's public affairs office that @wikileaks editor @julianassange, arguably the world's best known free speech avtivist, is under a gag agreement, are, perhaps unsurpringly, entirely false.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 28, 2018
So it appears that Assange is being presented with three options:
- Remain in isolation indefinitely and suffer the gradual decline of body and mind which necessarily comes with it.
- Come out of isolation on the condition that he cease voicing his political opinions or doing anything which could be perceived as interfering in the affairs of another nation, which would be to cease practicing journalism, and, in a sense, cease being Julian Assange.
- Be forced out of the embassy.
All three options that Assange is being offered result in his being silenced. The police patrolling the embassy have standing orders to arrest him as soon as he sets foot outside regardless of his diplomatic status, the British government has for six years refused to say whether it has received a US extradition request for Assange, and the Trump administration has made no secret about its agenda to arrest Assange and crush WikiLeaks. He either rots in isolation, remains politically silent and inactive, or goes to prison under the same government which tortured Chelsea Manning.
WikiLeaks publisher @JulianAssange "surpassed the limits of freedom of expression" by "speaking about politics" says Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno. Let that sink in. #FreeAssange pic.twitter.com/tTUKMLGLWl
— #FreeAssange! (tweets by campaign)⌛ (@JulianAssange) June 1, 2018
The western empire’s agenda to silence a dissident journalist, which President Moreno is now fully facilitating, proves beyond a doubt that the world needs the truth-spreading work of WikiLeaks more than ever, and it proves that Ecuador was right to shelter him from persecution in the first place. Walking back on that to fall into imperial sycophancy after all these years is shameful.
There are precious few forces in this world that have both the will to do great good and the power to enforce it. Ecuador is one of them. Here’s hoping it turns around and shows the world that brave, indomitable spirit I fell in love with in 1999.
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Jim KABLE / June 2, 2018
Que lastima que el gobierno corriente del Ecuador esta tratiendo – tan malo – nuestro hero Julian Assange! Y tambien el gobierno de Australia … por que? Por razon de los diablos del gobierno de los Estados Unidos!!!
Marko / June 2, 2018
“….. the Trump administration has made no secret about its agenda to arrest Assange and crush WikiLeaks. ”
That’s all part of MAGA , don’t cha know ? It must be , it’s printed right on the front of all those baseball caps.
Fuck The Plan. Free Julian.
jon jost / June 1, 2018
Just a technical note: your blog is formatted such that at least on my Firefox browser on a 17 inch screen the right hand side of the text is being truncated by about a word and some, all the way down the page. You might see if you can change to format to prevent this. Thanks. Like your blog very much.
Marko / June 3, 2018
I noticed the same thing using a Chrome browser , but it was apparently due to my having screen magnification set at 110%. When I reduced it back to 100% , words were no longer truncated.
geoffreyskoll / June 1, 2018
Fourth alternative: jail break. If the Weatherman Faction can break Timothy Leary out of prison, and some Black revolutionaries can break out Assata Shakur, surely some dedicated people can spirit away Assange from a few London bobbies.
Robert Edwards / June 1, 2018
Ecuador’s president Moreno needs an education in what Freedom of Expression really means. It’s an oxymoron to say “surpassed the limits of freedom of expression” Freedom of expression has no limits – “intent” and “hate-speech”, now that’s a different matter. Please someone inform Moreno what the difference is.
Robert Edwards / June 1, 2018
Laura, Excellent! Yes, he is the ripple maker – let’s keep the ripples flowing. The second option is a possibility and then the rest would be history – I think JA gets message….
Thom Prentice / June 1, 2018
One little blond-haired guy from Australia is such a threat to the Western empire? Wow.
WillD / June 1, 2018
It’s very sad that Moreno has succumbed to US threats & bribery. Ecuador has now gone from providing sanctuary to performing the role of US jailer in keeping Assange under lock and key and silencing him. The tactic appears to be – if they can’t physically get him to the US (without a huge public outcry) then make his life a misery by keeping him in solitary confinement.
This is typical of a brutal and repressive regime – just like all of the regimes that the US, and its pet allies, constantly criticise and attack. It is the excuse they always use for invasions, sanctions, manipulation and interference in the affairs of other countries.
LAURA WEAVER / June 1, 2018
As the old Mexican Proverb says..” They tried to bury us but did not know that we were seeds”…Assange has done more to harken our “awakening” than anyone! We must continue to be his voice and to fight evil at every turn.