By Luis Fleischman and Nancy Menges
Ecuador’s decision to grant political asylum to the computer hacker, Julian Assange, is very revealing in relation to the character and aspirations of the Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa.
Assange was the man who succeeded in disclosing American state officials’ and diplomats’ conversations through Wikileaks as well as releasing thousands of pages of top secret documents. However, Assange besides being suspected of having raped two women in Sweden is also a man that has become an ideological symbol.
This is the reason why Assange was granted political asylum. Such status is usually given to people who have been persecuted for political or ethnic reasons. Assange, although the disclosure of secrets would make him an offender under U.S. laws if so charged, sought asylum over alleged sex crimes committed in Sweden.
Yet, Assange has become a political symbol as elements in the left have seen him as a man who mocked the great power, the United States. This is why several left-wing groups such as the 99 percenters, and other anti-capitalist groups, and civic libertarian groups have turned strongly in favor of Assange with total disregard for the allegations of sexual assault, which they interpret as an excuse.
According to Assange himself, Wikileaks was not just a method to disclose information but he had a purpose. For Assange, the disclosure of information weakens the organization whose secrets were revealed. (In this case the American government). He declared “if you cause them to collapse as an organization, to not be able to communicate with each other internally, to become paranoid and fall in on themselves, then they are no longer competitive” (Interview with Julian Assange)
Assange believes that states have secrets as part of a conspiracy aimed at increasing their own power. He views government like any other business or criminal organization. But Assange chose to target the U.S. government and no other organization.
This is something he shares in common with the Bolivarian Revolution: hostility to the West and to the United States. Thus, Assange has become a symbol just like Carlos “the Jackal”, the Venezuelan terrorist who served Palestinian and other terrorist organizations during the 1970’s. Indeed, Chavez demanded that France release “Carlos the Jackal”, a man responsible for multiple political assassinations. Carlos, then, like Assange now, became a symbol of anti-Western justice regardless of the crimes he committed. The same applies to the late Libyan dictator, Muammar Khadafy who was offered asylum in Venezuela.
Yet, it is interesting that this time it was Ecuador, not Venezuela who took responsibility for this symbol.
Correa is becoming more and more like Chavez. He is not just an ally but also somebody who is adopting the patterns of Chavez’s actions and rhetoric. He has turned into an ideological leader of the Bolivarian Revolution in international and regional forums.
Indeed, Correa has become the main advocate for the dissolution of the Organization of American States (OAS) and also the chief enemy of its inter-American commission for Human Rights. Along with this he has accused the organizations mentioned above as being instruments of the United States.
His speeches have turned more and more aggressive, accusing the media, picking fights against foreign companies like Chevron, developing relations with drug cartels and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Correa was the first one to expel the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from Ecuador and dismantle its main base of operations in Manta. Likewise, according to a FARC leader, the organization helped fund his 2006 electoral campaign.
Correa has also strengthened relations with Iran by helping the latter to dodge international sanctions. Recently, according to information coming out of the Ecuadorian press and discussed in an article published in “The Hill” by Otto Reich and Ezequiel Vazquez on August 6th, the Correa regime is now working with Iranian banks to open a conduit through its own central bank to allow Iranian money to flow throughout Latin America. Correa’s connections to Iran and likely attempts to help Iran avoid international sanctions should warrant much more serious investigation.
Correa has also become the most outspoken advocate of Cuba’s inclusion in international forums. In fact he was the first to boycott the last Summit of the Americas over Cuba’s exclusion. Others followed his lead.
The Assange case is another act that places the Ecuadorian leader at the center of an ideological crusade.
The reason for this seems to be related to Chavez’s deteriorating health condition.
The Bolivarian Revolution has a key international component that might not be able to be replaced by any of Chavez’s successors in Venezuela. Ecuador lacks the substantial natural oil resources that Venezuela possesses but the Bolivarian Revolution also has an important ideological and rallying component that without the proper personality and leadership might not enjoy the same intensity.
Rafael Correa, like Chavez, is aggressive and belligerent. Like Chavez, he is fascinated by the Cuban revolution. He is hysterical and angry in his speeches and finds no problem in launching false accusations, pointing fingers at “enemies” whether they are real or fictional; and; he is perhaps the most articulate of all the Bolivarian leaders, in conveying the mad and demagogic message of the revolution. Bolivian president, Evo Morales, who is no less ideological, is far from being well spoken or articulate and lacks the charismatic qualities needed to lead an international movement.
In essence, Correa is positioning himself as the successor to Chavez in the international arena. This does not mean, necessarily, that Venezuela will lose its key role. Venezuela will continue to be the main funder and perhaps strategist of the revolution but Correa will lead the communications and energize the masses.
THE AMERICAS REPORT
NANCY MENGES and
LUIS FLEISCHMAN, Editors
The Americas Report is the featured product of the Center for Security Policy‘s Menges Hemispheric Security Project. It features in-depth, original articles on subjects not regularly covered by the American press.
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