Sun Jun 30, 2013 6:24AM


Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa says Russia will make the decision about the destination of American intelligence whistleblower who has holed up in an airport in Moscow.

 

“At this moment, the solution of Snowden’s destination is in the hands of Russian authorities,” Correa said in an interview with the private Oromar channel late Saturday.

 

Snowden arrived in Moscow’s international airport from Hong Kong last Sunday. The U.S. has revoked his passport to prevent him from travelling. However, he has applied for asylum in Ecuador.

 

According to the law in Ecuador, asylum requests can be processed only when the applicant is in Ecuadorian territories.

 

Snowden, a former analyst at the National Security Agency, has revealed top secret intelligence documents about the U.S. surveillance programs in the country and abroad. He faces charges of espionage and theft of government property.

 

Correa said Snowden has requested asylum in Ecuador on the advice of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who released hundreds of thousands of U.S. classified documents three years ago. Also wanted by the U.S., Assange has taken refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since last year.

 

Correa spoke with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden early Saturday. In his weekly address, the Ecuadorian leader said Biden had asked him to “please reject” Snowden’s asylum request. He said he would consult the U.S. on making any decision about the application but added Quito would have the final say regarding the issue.

 

MA/HJ

***************************************************************************************************

Corporate Control and Double Standards

Rafael Correa, the Press, and Whistleblowers

by ADAM CHIMIENTI

Once again, we are witnessing a growing frustration with “tiny” Ecuador. The United States government is clearly not happy with what would be the latest diplomatic slap in the face coming from the South American country, i.e. the pending arrival of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in the coming days. Beyond the United States’ government though, the US press corps are also seemingly up in arms. Why are they so angry? Well, it appears that they are indignant over the perceived hypocrisy of President Rafael Correa.

Claims of Hypocrisy

According to an article from The Atlantic (and another similar one from NPR here), the Ecuadorian leader “has created a safe space for foreigners like Assange — and now possibly Snowden –[but] he doesn’t do the same for dissenters within his own country.” News agencies like NBC News and The Atlantic think this is “interesting” and want to know ‘Why Ecuador?’ Such inquiries naturally turn to the NGOs, who are also less than pleased with this unruly little country. Freedom House, the Committee to Protect Journalists and others are upset that this very week, the one-year anniversary of Assange being holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (and the same week that the Snowden asylum request is being reviewed), the Ecuadorian National Assembly has passed a Communications Bill that detractors claim is a major blow to a free press.

For several of the opposition figures and US-based observers, Ecuador’s new media legislation has sealed the deal on the stasi-like state that they imply or openly charge Correa has been dreaming about for years. In other words, transparency advocates like Assange and Snowden are compromising their credibility by associating with the Correa government. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the right-wing terrorist supporter/US Congresswoman representing Miami, has been busy tweeting as much. The Ecuadorian government, however, asserts that the bill is meant to place more media power in the hands of public groups and move away from privately owned media monopolies.

Meanwhile, the Council of Hemispheric Relations, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Heritage Foundation all say that Ecuador must be punished for this latest insult to the US government. James Roberts of Heritagelashed out at the South American leader on June 24, writing in the National Review Online:

“Rafael Correa has demonstrated a blatant disregard for international standards of justice. That kind of conduct may not be surprising from a man who seeks to don the mantle of Chávez, but it should not be rewarded with trade preferences.”

It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how a figure like Correa would have been dealt with a few decades back, but it appears that the more heavy-handed approach is not really possible at the moment, much to the dismay of the powerful and connected.

Returning to the issue of freedom, has the defiant president of Ecuador used the National Assembly to pass a law that NPR, The Atlantic and others tell us will be used to make the country less transparent and more hostile to journalists who only wish to be free to monitor the government and act as a check on state power? Well, let’s hold off on the most absurd elements of irony here for a moment and address the issue at hand.

About a Coup

It should certainly not be regarded as a good thing if the case was simply a cut-and-dry example of authoritarian overreach. Freedom of the press, as we are learning with the Snowden case, has seemingly never before been so important, or so contentious for that matter. However, the Ecuadorian issue is not so simple and it was certainly complicated after a day of crisis nearly three years earlier when factions of the National Police and armed forces attacked the president of Ecuador on September 30, 2010. The event was widely regarded as a coup attempt. What exactly went down is still somewhat unclear. There was a dramatic showdown between Correa himself and police officers that were angered by a supposed attempt to cut their pay. What is for certain, though, is that it was a countrywide, well-coordinated attempt to shut down the National Assembly, the two major airports in Guayaquil and Quito and eventually a hospital where the president was being treated for wounds. Furthermore, the plotters were also attacking journalists throughout the country, and most of these were pro-government reporters working for public media outlets.

The opposition press has taken an active role in attempts to discredit Correa since he first ran for president. He has elaborated on his views of the press and they are certainly not very congenial. In 2012, during a public TV interview in Spain, Correa said, “one of the main problems around the world is that there are private networks in the communication business, for-profit businesses providing public information, which is very important for society. It is a fundamental contradiction.”

One of the issues that NGOs and journalists have cited in their litany of complaints about Ecuador’s endangered freedom of the press actually stems from the 2010 police and military uprising. During the chaos that ensued during the alleged coup attempt, one reporter from the paper of record in Guayaquil took the opportunity to claim that Correa had ordered police to fire on a crowd of innocent onlookers caught up in the melee, presumably aiming to provoke anti-government sentiments. The claim turned out to be completely unsubstantiated. The government fined the journalist and his paper El Universo some $40 million for defamation but later withdrew the charges. Consider what might have happened in the US if the Los Angeles Times or Washington Post would have falsely claimed that Barack Obama had personally ordered military or police forces to fire on a crowd of protesters and innocent people were injured as a result somewhere in Washington, D.C It would be difficult to imagine a reporter and his editors ever committing such a stupid move, but if they had, there would have been some serious consequences. Alas, this is not really too shocking in the context of a sensationalist Latin American press.

***************************************************************************************************

Ecuador offers U.S. rights aid, waives trade benefits


Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino (center L) talks to reporters before a function at a hotel in Singapore June 27, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su

QUITO | Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:06am EDT

(Reuters) – Ecuador’s leftist government thumbed its nose at Washington on Thursday by renouncing U.S. trade benefits and offering to pay for human rights training in America in response to pressure over asylum for former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The angry response threatens a showdown between the two nations over Snowden, and may burnish President Rafael Correa’s credentials to be the continent’s principal challenger of U.S. power after the death of Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” government spokesman Fernando Alvarado said at a news conference.

In a cheeky jab at the U.S. spying program that Snowden unveiled through leaks to the media, the South American nation offered $23 million per year to finance human rights training.

The funding would be destined to help “avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity,” Alvarado said. He said the amount was the equivalent of what Ecuador gained each year from the trade benefits.

“Ecuador gives up, unilaterally and irrevocably, the said customs benefits,” he said.

An influential U.S. senator on Wednesday said he would seek to end those benefits if Ecuador gave Snowden asylum.

Snowden, 30, is believed to be at Moscow’s international airport and seeking safe passage to Ecuador.

 

Read More  Here

 

***************************************************************************************************

Ecuador tells U.S. to send its position on Snowden in writing


People spend time in a waiting room at the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport June 26, 2013. REUTERS-Sergei Karpukhin

WASHINGTON | Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:29am EDT

(Reuters) – Ecuador said on Wednesday the United States must “submit its position” regarding Edward Snowden to the Ecuadorean government in writing as it considers the former U.S. spy agency contractor’s request for asylum.

Ecuador, in a statement from its embassy in Washington, said it would review the request “responsibly.”

“The legal basis for each individual case must be rigorously established, in accordance with our national Constitution and the applicable national and international legal framework. This legal process takes human rights obligations into consideration as well,” the statement said.

“This current situation is not being provoked by Ecuador,” the embassy said.

Snowden, 30, a former employee of the U.S. contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, appears to be still in hiding at a Moscow airport awaiting a ruling on his asylum request from the tiny South American nation’s leftist government.

 

Read More Here

***************************************************************************************************

Putin rules out handing Snowden over to United States


Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), is seen during a news broadcast on television at a restaurant in Hong Kong June 26, 2013. REUTERS-Tyrone Siu

MOSCOW | Wed Jun 26, 2013 6:10am EDT

(Reuters) – A former U.S. spy agency contractor sought by Washington on espionage charges appeared on Wednesday to be still in hiding at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and the national airline said he was not booked on any of its flights over the next three days.

Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong after leaking details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs, then flew on to Moscow on Sunday, evading a U.S. extradition request. President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he was in the transit area of the airport and he had no intention of handing him to Washington.

“They are not flying today and not over the next three days,” an Aeroflot representative at the transfer desk at Sheremetyevo said when asked whether Snowden and his legal adviser, Sarah Harrison, were due to fly out on Wednesday.

 

Read More  Here

***************************************************************************************************

Ecuador denounces US ‘double standards’

Sun Jun 30, 2013 2:1AM

Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa

 

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has denounced U.S. “double standards” over granting asylum to fugitives.

 

Correa said Saturday that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had asked him in a telephone call not to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, the fugitive former CIA contractor wanted in the U.S.

 

In a weekly television address, Correa rebuked the Obama administration for hypocrisy, pointing to the case of brothers Roberto and William Isaias, both of them bankers, whom Ecuador is seeking to extradite from the U.S.

 

“Let’s be consistent,” Correa said. “Have rules for everyone, because that is a clear double-standard here.”

 

Earlier this month, Snowden revealed massive U.S. surveillance programs sparking a scandal in America. Washington is now seeking the extradition of the leaker, charged with espionage and theft of government property in his home country.

 

Snowden is currently in the transit zone of a Moscow airport. Reports say he could consider seeking asylum from Ecuador, where he was planning to travel to after leaving Russia.

 

“The moment that he arrives, if he arrives, the first thing is we’ll ask the opinion of the United States, as we did in the Assange case with England,” Correa said in his television address. “But the decision is ours to make.”

 

Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, has been given asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London. Wikileaks revealed classified documents it received from former U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning, who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq.

 

Secret documents provided by Snowden show the United States has spied on various European Union institutions and offices as well.

 

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington, New York and Brussels.

 

AHT/ARA

 

***************************************************************************************************

 

Enhanced by Zemanta