Now that Ecuador has granted Julian Assange political asylum, the speculation has shifted to just how the WikiLeaks founder could bust out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he's been holed up for two months, and travel to the Andean nation. It won't be easy. The United Kingdom has not relented in its commitment to extradite Assange to Sweden to face sexual assault charges, even floating the idea of revoking the Ecuadorean embassy's diplomatic status so that British police can enter the mission and detain Assange.
But if Assange somehow finds a way out of London and gets himself to Ecuador, how might he like his new home?
We know he already has friends in high places; Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, after all, tweeted "no one is going to terrorize us!" on the eve of the Assange announcement on Thursday, and former Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas eagerly offered Assange Ecuadorean residency back in 2010. Public opinion, however, may be more divided. Online polls run by Ecuadorean newspapers suggest support for Assange's relocation to Ecuador (sample sizes are admittedly small), but critics such as Colombian international law professor Carlos Estarellas have questioned the wisdom of the government's decision. An editorial today in the daily Hoy wonders whether it will be possible to "reconcile respect for the institution of political asylum with good relations with Great Britain and Sweden."
Whether or not he's welcomed in Quito with open arms, Julian Assange may be charmed by Ecuador. Here are a few reasons why.
There's debate about whether WikiLeaks specifically targeted the United States in releasing secret documents and diplomatic cables, but Assange certainly doesn't have warm feelings toward U.S. officials -- especially given the detention of accused WikiLeaker Bradley Manning and Assange's own fears about Sweden handing him over to U.S. authorities. "I have been attacked by the U.S., from the vice president down, as a high-tech terrorist," he declared in June.
Assange will find a sympathetic ear in Ecuador's Rafael Correa, a U.S.-trained economist who has established alliances and trade relationships with American opponents such as Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela, cancelled plans for a trade deal with the United States, prohibited the U.S. military from using an air base on Ecuador's Pacific coast for drug surveillance flights, and kicked two U.S. diplomats out of the country in a row over an aid program. During an appearance (or should we say love fest?) on Assange's talk show in May, Correa, who was initially critical of WikiLeaks and who expelled the U.S. ambassador to Ecuador after the release of a cable suggesting that Correa had appointed a corrupt police chief, praised the organization. "The WikiLeaks have made us stronger," he noted, "as the main accusations made by the [U.S.] embassy were due to our excessive nationalism and defense of the sovereignty of the Ecuadorean government."
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