Decision on Assange’s Fate symbolizes Ecuador’s Shift to Total Neoliberalism

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QUITO, Ecuador – The decision by Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno to suspend the asylum granted to the Australian activist Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, reflects a very symbolic political movement towards neoliberalism, with serious repercussions for human rights, believes International Relations specialist Paulo Velasco, from Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro.

Early yesterday morning Assange, who had been living in the British Embassy in the United Kingdom since 2012, was arrested by the British police because of an extradition request made by the United States, after the Ecuadorian government removed the asylum that the protected Assange for the last seven years. According to the Ecuadorian head of state, the measure was a response to the journalist’s disrespectful and aggressive behavior, his hostile and threatening statements against Ecuador and alleged violations of international conventions, justifications considered to be unconvincing both by supporters of the cyber-activist as by several analysts.

“In a sovereign decision Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols,” Moreno said on a Tweet.

Assange, who is responsible for the publication of US government secret documents, is the reason for the extradition request. Assange is also responsible in England for violating the parole rules for failing a hearing in 2012, a conviction that may one year in prison. But the great concern of his lawyers – and he too – is that the British authorities actually decide to send him to the United States, where the legal consequences of upsetting Washington are still uncertain.

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Professor Paulo Velasco of the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro says is still too early to consider the possible punishments of the activist with an eventual transfer to the United States. But in the case of an extremely severe sentence, such as the death penalty, for example, it would be unlikely that London would pursue extradition, as this rarely occurs when the country of destination provides for a maximum penalty much higher than that imposed in the State of source.

“We well know that the European Union is repelled by the use of capital punishment, so the United Kingdom, of course, also follows this line very much not to enforce it and to avoid extradition to countries where this can be enforced,” he commented.

From the Ecuadorian point of view, Velasco considers that this controversial decision of Lenin Moreno changes in a very profound way the position that the country maintained several years ago, especially in the government of Rafael Correa. According to him, what is perceived with this situation is that although Ecuador has in the current leader, a supposed continuity of the progressive dimension of the previous administration, the government of Moreno shows more and more identification with a conservative agenda, comparable to the one of the North American president, Donald Trump.

“We have seen Moreno taking on a more conservative and more right-wing flag (pro-imperialist, ed.), which would certainly not have been expected at his election a few years ago, and he was even chosen by Correa as his successor. Disrespect for Assange is certainly a very strong symbolic flag of the Ecuadorean right, bringing the country closer to the positions expected by the United Kingdom, expected by the United States of Trump, so I think it is indeed a very symbolic political movement that has real repercussions. This is very serious from the point of view of individual guarantees and human rights,” said the specialist, affirming that the motivations presented by the Ecuadorian president to suspend asylum lacked a more precise detailing.

According to the professor, the elements of analysis available at the time do not seem to indicate necessarily some concrete, more tangible benefit, resulting from this maneuver of the Ecuadorian government. For him, the expected gains would be more subjective, in terms of fidelity to a conservative agenda.

“It does not seem to me that there is a concrete bargain, a ‘take it, give it here.’ At least not explicitly,” he said. “We may now see Ecuador returning to an old practice of proximity, convergence in political-ideological terms with the United States. For example, it may be possible to wait for the reactivation of a US military base in the country. But it is a movement that somehow demonstrates Ecuador is very attuned to the right-wing conservative agenda that has now prevailed in South America, in a scenario where the progressive governments all virtually left power at once.”

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