Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno has made no secret of his annoyance with the man he refers to a “hacker,” calling Assange “a stone in his shoe” as Ecuador seeks to restructure itself as a trusted ally of the United States.
by Elliott Gabriel
For all practical purposes, whistleblower and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now a prisoner in asylum at the Embassy of Ecuador in London, facing the torture of near-total isolation from the outside world and hanging by the thread of the Andean state’s dwindling hospitality.
On Thursday, the Australian – who, strangely enough, was given Ecuadorian citizenship last December – faced a new layer of precariousness atop his six-year refuge, when Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno ordered that additional security assigned to the building be withdrawn.
According to Ecuador’s government, the London Embassy will now have the same level of security enjoyed by the other ambassadorial facilities the Andean nation maintains throughout the globe.
Since March, Ecuador has applied new pressure on Assange, beginning with the withdrawal of Assange’s internet connection. Authorities claim this move was in response to his “interference,” in the form of comments on Spain’s repression of Catalonian independence advocates and British accusations that Russia poisoned an ex-spy.
The move also coincided with a visit by two top-level officials from U.S. Southern Command to Quito for discussions to renew U.S.-Ecuador security ties. These had largely been frozen following the 2009 shuttering of the U.S. Air Force base in the coastal city of Manta, a major hub of U.S. espionage activity in the region.
Speaking to Sputnik, veteran journalist John Pilger commented: “It’s quite clear that this government has deferred to the United States … But Ecuador is a tiny country, and in the historical pattern has been pressured massively by the United States, which of course is working its way right through the governments that might have challenged U.S. interests in Latin America, from Venezuela to Argentina to Bolivia and now to Ecuador.”
Beyond Washington alone, Economist Intelligence Unit analyst Aristodimos Iliopoulos told Bloomberg that the move is also meant to curry favor with international financial institutions and extractive industries, which hope to exploit Ecuador’s resources. Iliopoulos noted: “The back story is that Ecuador wants to grow again by getting back into the good graces of international investors in oil and mining projects. So the wager might be that clamping down on Assange is seen as a sign of good will.”