After more than four years sheltering inside Ecuador’s Embassy in London, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could have Wikileak’s signature hourglass run out. Two out of three Ecuadorian presidential candidates want to end Assange’s asylum.
Since the Wikileaks founder was offered asylum by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa in 2012, Assange has watched the world change dramatically from his tiny room at the country’s embassy in London.
This Sunday, Ecuador will hold the first presidential election in more than a decade not to be contested by Correa. Voters will elect a new President and National Assembly. Incumbent President Rafael Correa is not eligible for re-election, having served two terms.
On the eve of the election, let’s take a look at what the top three presidential candidates have said they will do regarding Assange’s asylum if they become elected.
Lenín Moreno – PAIS Alliance – Left-wing
The favorite is Lenín Moreno, who served as Vice President of the Republic from 2007 to 2013, serving under President Rafael Correa. His election as Vice President was notable because as a paraplegic, Moreno was one of the world’s few disabled national leaders. For his work providing respect and dignity to handicapped people, he was nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.
Lenin Moreno will maintain asylum for Julian Assange, but will ask him to be more delicate in matters of international politics.
The official candidate said on Thursday, February 9, 2017, that the country is “protecting his life” because Ecuador does not apply the death penalty. But he clarified that his administration would make a request to him: “We will ask Mr. Assange to be much more delicate at the moment that he treats the international politics, mainly with countries with which we have a good relation”. This statement was made after participating in a conversation with the Ecuadorian Broadcasting Association in Guayaquil.
Guillermo Lasso – CREO – Centre-right
Guillermo Lasso is an Ecuadorian businessman and politician. He was the presidential candidate for the Ecuadorian general election in 2013 for the party called Creating Opportunities. He arrived in second place. Lasso is the largest share holder in Banco de Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest financial services network.
In early 2017, Lasso launched his second presidential campaign to succeed incumbent President Correa for Creating Opportunities in the 2017 presidential elections, as Correa had already served his two-term constitutionally defined limit.
Lasso promoted an independent judiciary and free speech. The opposition and civil rights organizations consider judicial autonomy and press freedom to be threatened under the administration of President Correa.
Bearing this in mind, you might think Lasso would be supportive of Assange, but you’d be wrong. Lasso says the costly asylum can no longer be justified.
In an interview with the Guardian, Lasso, of the rightwing Creo-Suma alliance, said it was time for the WikiLeaks founder to move on because his asylum was expensive and no longer justified.
“The Ecuadorian people have been paying a cost that we should not have to bear,” he said during an interview in Quito. “We will cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate.”
Cynthia Viteri – PSC – Centre-right to Right-wing
Cynthia Viteri of the Social Christian Party who is standing in tomorrow’s election says Ecuador has more important things to spend its taxpayers’ money on than Assange.
Viteri would rather see the cash currently being spent on housing Assange, going on school lunches for children.
She told local newspaper El Comercio: “As president of this nation, I need the money used for his upkeep, for example, to pay for my children’s school lunches.”
Although the current government has maintained its position of solidarity, all involved have grown increasingly frustrated with a situation that Ecuador’s top diplomat described as “something out of a John le Carré novel”.
“Our staff have been through a lot. There is a human cost,” said the foreign minister, Guillaume Long. “This is probably the most watched embassy on the planet.”