For hints on whether Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa will give Julian Assange asylum, I took a look at the May 22 interview between the men for Assange’s self-titled show on Russia Today, the TV station bankrolled by the Russian Government. “Correa is a left wing populist who has changed the face of Ecuador,” Assange announced in his introduction. “But unlike his predecessors he has a PhD in economics.”
Assange quotes US embassy cables released by his own Wikileaks project that say Correa is the most popular president in Ecuadorian history but he was taken hostage in a 2010 coup d’etat. Assange said Correa blamed the coup on corrupt media and launched a counter-offensive saying the media defines what reforms are possible.
Assange began by asking about Ecuador’s relationship with the US. Correa quoted Bolivian president Evo Morales who said the US is the only country in the Americas safe from a coup because it doesn’t have a US embassy. Correa said he had to shut down the funding the US provided to Ecuadorian police by increasing their salary. Correa said he wasn’t anti-American and got two degrees there but he would never allow Ecuadorian sovereignty to be compromised by the US. Correa said he wanted Wikileaks to release all the cables as they had nothing to hide.
Assange asked about kicking out the US ambassador after the release of the cables. Correa said she was right wing with 1960s cold war attitudes. She accused Correa of deliberately appointing a corrupt police commissioner and had ill-will against the government and her contacts were leaders of the opposition. Correa defended his growing relationships with China, Russia and Brazil.
Assange said he had been fighting for the release of information and asked if Correa’s reforms were a step in the wrong direction. Correa quoted an Argentina book about Wikileaks which said Ecuadorian media did not publish. He has long supported Wikileaks. “We believe, my dear Julian, that only things that should be protected against freedom of speech are those set in the international treaties,” Correa said. He said media power is greater than political power in Ecuador. “They usually have self-serving political, economic, social and above all informative power,” he said. He claimed the government were persecuted by journalists using insults and slander – mass media serving private interests.
With most TV stations owned by bankers and no public stations, he faced merciless opposition to any banking reforms. “These people disguised as journalists are doing politics for fear of losing the power they always had,” Correa said. Assange agreed with his market description of the media which had censored Wikileaks material for political reasons. However he said the correct way to deal with monopolies or cartels was to break them up. He asked could Correa have made it easier for new entrants. Correa said what they were trying to do was making one third of TV stations for the community and non-profit, one third commercial and the final third state owned by governments and councils. He said his 2008 law has been systematically blocked by big media and their lobbyists.
Correa talked about Ecuador and Latin America gradually moving away from the Washington Consensus. “The policies dictated by the US had nothing to do with our needs in Latin America,” Correa told Assange. Correa concluded by saying governments had to put people before economic politics. At the end he told Assange it was a pleasure to meet him in this way, “and cheer up, welcome to the club of the persecuted,” he said. “Thank you,” Assange replied. “Take care and don’t get assassinated.” “That’s something we have to avoid every day.”