Ecuador, Assange and the Empire: Anatomy of a Neoliberal Sellout – By Elliott Gabriel. ( MINT PRESS )

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Left to right: Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, Julian Assange, and Rafael Correa (AP photos, MPN Photo Illustration)

Under Ecuador’s new government, the gagging of Assange has long been a matter of when, not if. It’s only the latest sign of a once-defiant nation’s newfound subservience to Washington and Europe.

Amid a spate of attacks on Ecuador’s security forces earlier this year near the border with Colombia that has been blamed on alleged ex-guerilla drug traffickers, the FBI was invited to establish a presence in the country to assist in investigations. Critics read the move as another sign of Moreno’s treason, citing the well-documented historical role the bureau played undermining leftist organizations and popular movements in the country during the last century.

Politicians like Assemblyman and retired General Paco Moncayo used the attacks to build their case for why Moreno should do more to undo the “very serious errors” by Correa, such as the “dismantling of relations and cooperation” with the U.S. and closure of the U.S. military post at Ecuador’s Manta air base.

In a tweet, Moncayo said:

Removing the Manta base and not having any plan to replace it was silly and irresponsible. [Correa’s government] left the country defenseless against threats as terrible as narco-traffickers.”

Assange was finally disconnected from the outside world just as two top-level officials from the U.S. military’s Southern Command were visiting Quito to discuss the reestablishment of U.S.-Ecuador security ties. According to the U.S. officials, their Ecuadorian counterparts conveyed an interest in the return of American military personnel. At the same time, Ecuador’s commerce minister announced that negotiations with Washington to implement a long-shelved free-trade deal would soon begin.


Assange’s borrowed time is running out

A demonstrator holds a poster with the portrait of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during a rally in front of the government palace in Quito, Ecuador, Monday, Aug. 20, 2012. People gathered at the square in front of the government palace to support president Correa after he granted political asylum to Assange and against the British government threats to enter Ecuador's embassy in London where Assange is confined. Legend on the poster says, "Without true freedom of expression there is no sovereignty". (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

This wasn’t the first time that Ecuador silenced the WikiLeaks founder.

In October 2016, Assange was temporarily barred from the web out of concern that he would release further information that could impact the U.S. elections. His access was eventually restored following Election Day.

According to Ecuador’s authorities, the final straw was allegedly Assange “not being able to control” himself regarding both British accusations that Russia poisoned ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and Germany’s arrest of Catalan pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont. For its part, WikiLeaks claims that Assange is being punished for revealing the “‘Watergate’ of Ecudor” [sic], a tranche of leaked emails revealing alleged agreements between Italy’s Hacking Team and Ecuador’s now-disbanded SENAIN intelligence agency.

In a statement, Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis and musician Brian Eno claimed:

Clearly, Ecuador’s government has been subjected to bullying over its decision to grant Julian asylum, support and, ultimately, diplomatic status. Naturally, Quito cannot admit that it is buckling under that pressure and it argues, in public, that Julian’s tweets over Catalonia are responsible for the decision to isolate him.”

Ecuador officially maintains that Assange endangered “the good relationship the country maintains with Great Britain, with the other members of the European Union, and with other countries.”

Given Ecuador’s realignment with Western capitals, the move to gag Assange was just as much a matter of choice as a matter of coercion. His access to the web likely won’t be restored this time around.

One can only offer suppositions, but the possibility suggests itself with perfect clarity: Assange, once Ecuador’s symbol of defiance toward imperialist domineering in the Global South, is being made into Ecuador’s sacrificial offering in a gesture of fealty to Washington and Europe.

Top Photo | Left to right: Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, Julian Assange, and Rafael Correa (AP photos, MPN Photo Illustration)

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

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