It appears President Correa's "intention to safeguard [Assange's] life and physical integrity until he reaches a safe place," is under threat as The Miami Herald reports that Guillermo Lasso, the front-runner in Ecuador’s presidential election, says he intends to evict Assange from that country’s London embassy if he wins the April 2 runoff against ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno.
“We will ask Mr. Assange, very politely, to leave our embassy, in absolute compliance with international conventions and protocols,” Lasso said in an email exchange with the Miami Herald.
Assange took refuge in Ecuador’s cramped London embassy in 2012 fighting extradition to Sweden where he is wanted on sexual misconduct allegations. Assange and his legal team fear that the Swedish charges are a ploy to have him extradited to the United States.
Lasso also noted that Assange had volunteered to leave the embassy if Chelsea Manning, who is serving a 35-year-sentence for giving WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of secret and confidential U.S. diplomatic cables, were to be pardoned. On his way out of office, President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, and she will be released May 17. But Assange argued that a commutation wasn’t a pardon and hunkered down at the embassy.
The ruling party’s Moreno has said he would continue Correa’s policy of letting Assange stay at the embassy.
As a reminder, in October 2016, Ecuador cut Assange's internet access due to his publication of a "wealth of documents impacting the U.S. election." Despite what seems to be the Ecuadorian government caving to political pressure from the Obama administration, the statement takes special caution to reassure everyone that the decision was in response to "sovereign decisions alone" and that Ecuador "does not yield to pressure from other states"....sure, though we do wonder how many drafts John Kerry's staffers went through at the State Department before finally approving these comments for dissemination.
Here are some key excerpts from the Ecuadorian statement:
"In recent weeks, WikiLeaks has published a wealth of documents, impacting on the U.S. election campaign. This decision was taken exclusively by that organization."
“The Government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It does not interfere in external electoral processes, nor does it favor any particular candidate."
“Accordingly, Ecuador has exercised its sovereign right to temporarily restrict access to some of its private communications network within its Embassy in the United Kingdom. This temporary restriction does not prevent the WikiLeaks organization from carrying out it journalistic activities."
"Ecuador, in accordance with its tradition of defending human rights and protecting victims for political persecution, reaffirms the asylum granted to Julian Assange and reiterates its intention to safeguard his life and physical integrity until he reaches a safe place."
"Ecuador's foreign policy responds to sovereign decisions alone and does not yield to pressure from other states."
Probably just a coincidence? Is the deep state still pulling the strings? One wonders just what Wikileaks may have up its sleeve next... especially as the Obama links to Trump White House leaks and Trump Tower surveillance grow stronger.
Finally, while it may be nothing, we note that Ecuador transferred half its gold to Goldman Sachs in exchange for "liquidity" in June 2014 - that 'swap' is due to expire in June 2017...
Ecuador agreed to transfer more than half its gold reserves to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. for three years as the government seeks to bolster liquidity.
The central bank said it will send 466,000 ounces of gold to Goldman Sachs, worth about $580 million at current prices, and get the same amount back three years from now. In return, Ecuador will get “instruments of high security and liquidity” and expects to earn a profit of $16 million to $20 million over the term of the accord.
“Gold that was not generating any returns in vaults, causing storage costs, now becomes a productive asset that will generate profits,” the central bank said in the statement. “These interventions in the gold market represent the beginning of a new and permanent strategy of active participation by the bank, through purchases, sales and financial operations, that will contribute to the creation of new financial investment opportunities.”
Probably nothing, nevertheless it's clear Assange - rightfully so - is getting increasingly frustrated with his status (and faces more enemies). Remember, Assange's uncharacteristically emotional remarks last year with Hannity:
"I have been detained illegally, without charge for six years, without sunlight, lots of spies everywhere. It's tough... but that's the mission I set myself on. I understand the kind of game that's being played - big powerful actors will try and take revenge...it's a different thing for my family - I have young children, under 10 years old, they didn't sign up for that... and I think that is fundamentally unjust... my family is innocent, they didn't sign up for that fight."
There is however, perhaps a modest silver lining, as Lasso latter said “we vow to take all the steps necessary so that another embassy will take him in and protect his rights.”
However, as the Miami Herald notes, even if another government were willing to provide Assange shelter, it’s unclear how he would be transferred. In the five years since he’s been holed up in the embassy, the Rafael Correa administration hasn’t been able to figure out how to move him to Ecuador, amid heavy police scrutiny in London.