For more than seven years, Julian Assange has been threatened, pursued, and detained without charge for publishing the truth about government and corporate corruption around the world. Although his situation jeopardizes not only his well-being but a free press, many, even those in the same profession, have chosen to stand ignorantly, silently, and dangerously on the wrong side of history. But Ecuador, under immense political pressure, has continued to grant Assange asylum and it’s a testament to their government and the Ecuadorian citizens’ strength and decency.
However, tomorrow will mark three weeks since President Moreno cut Assange’s communications to the outside world. The unsettling decision has been an ominous one that begs the question, “What changed?” Although I’m no expert on Ecuadorian affairs, President Lenin Moreno is no Rafael Correa and it’s time to examine why he, unlike Correa, appears willing to hitch his country’s sovereignty to the likes of Uncle Sam’s wagon. What exactly is the United States promising him?
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TERRORISM IN ECUADOR
Since January, 2018, Ecuador has experienced a surge in attacks along their northern border. Some of the more serious incidences occurred on January 27th, when a car bomb exploded outside of a police station leaving fourteen officers injured; March 20th, when a roadside bomb killed three Ecuadorian soldiers; and March 26th, when two El Comercio journalists, Javier Ortega and Paul Rivas, along with their driver, Efrair Segarra, were kidnapped and later murdered. El Comercio is one of WikiLeaks publishing partners.
Days before it was confirmed that the journalists and driver had been killed similar but unconfirmed reports had circulated on social media because of a statement allegedly put out by FARC splinter group, Oliver Sinisterra Front. The group claimed that the three kidnapped victims had been killed and that both the Colombian and Ecuadorian governments were responsible (translated),
“The Ecuadorean government and Colombian minister did not want to save the lives of the three detained; they did it with the military landing in various points near the place where the men were detained, which resulted in the death of the two journalists and the driver.”
Both governments have denied any involvement in a “landing” or any offensive operations in the area at the time.
WHO’S BEHIND THE VIOLENCE
When FARC signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government in 2016, some members of the group denounced it and formed dissident groups known as Residual Organized Armed Groups (GAOR). Ecuadorian officials believe that they are the ones behind the bombings and the murders. The two main splinter groups operating near Ecuador’s northern border are the United Guerrillas of the Pacific and Oliver Sinisterra Front.
According to the U.K. and just about everyone else in the world, Ecuador has never had a terrorism problem and this year’s increase in violence—which notably started a few weeks after Ecuador announced they would seek mediation with a third party or country with regards to Julian Assange’s situation—is obviously a new and suspicious development.
WHAT DOES PRESIDENT MORENO WANT?
There appears to be two pressing matters on President Moreno’s agenda right now: A trade agreement with the United States and protection along the northern border. He has been very clear that he wants an economic policy change and that “after years of significant public spending and investment in Ecuador, the new government is betting on private investment to sustain economic growth during the seemingly inevitable years of fiscal austerity that lie ahead.”
TODD CHAPMAN AND THOMAS SHANNON
Enter U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Todd Chapman and U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, two men seemingly determined to help Moreno get what he wants. Prior to being nominated as U.S. ambassador by Obama at the end of 2015, Chapman was the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Thomas Shannon has been the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs since February 12, 2016. It recently came to my attention that WikiLeaks’ documents show former Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, Richard Verma, pushed Shannon’s nomination through on behalf of Hillary Clinton. As Verma told Clinton in one email, he had to sell his soul to former Florida Senator, George LeMieux to make it happen.
MEETINGS WITH PRESIDENT MORENO
If there’s one thing that’s been greasing the wheels for Mike Pompeo’s expected role as U.S. secretary of state, it’s the endless meetings that Chapman and Shannon have taken with President Moreno and members of the Ecuadorian government. For instance, on January 22, 2018, @Anonscan posted an article via Twitter in which Moreno stated that he had already met with Chapman about a trade agreement between Ecuador and the U.S.
“Moreno assured that it is time to ‘refresh’ the foreign relations of this country, while not ruling out a closer commercial approach with the USA and with the Pacific Alliance.
(Well @Lenin … you sure talked a lot with Todd at @usembassy_quito recently)”
During a three day trip to Ecuador on February 25-27, 2018, Shannon personally sat down with President Moreno, a move that signaled “Ecuador’s deepening ties with the United States.” The two men discussed “strengthening the two countries’ bilateral relationship, as well as increasing collaboration in areas of mutual interest.” Mutual interest being Moreno’s “inherited problem” that is currently being illegally detained in the Ecuadorian Embassy, I’m sure.
On March 2nd, both President Moreno and Chapman attended a ceremony for the National Police of Ecuador where Moreno stated that Chapman’s “unusual presence” at the event denoted the friendship between the U.S. and Ecuador. He went on to say that after his meeting with Shannon in February, the two countries were working together on training and intelligence.
MEETINGS WITH GOVERNMENT LEADERS
A little over a week after Assange’s internet was cut, Chapman met with Ecuador’s Ministers of Industries and Productivity, Economy and Finance, Foreign Trade, and Agriculture. It was reported that the meeting focused on, you guessed it…”strengthening the bilateral relationship” between Ecuador and the United States.
After the meeting, Chapman stated (translated),
“We have proposed several agreements and possibilities to advance the relationship, in the area of security, in the area of open skies, culture. There are several projects that are pending to be agreed and signed and my message from these last days is that we have to conclude them…we have to conclude what we have offered, what we are discussing and then we can move on to other issues.”
This statement alone reeks of U.S. pressure. One has to wonder why the United States is in a rush to get their “offers” signed, sealed, and delivered. And more importantly, what are the other issues that Chapman wants to move on—surely one is being dangled like a carrot for the other. It gets better.
Thirteen U.S. congressional delegates also flew in for the meeting. Again, Chapman (translated),
“[This] is the first visit of a large group of congressmen for more than ten, fifteen years to the country, it is a historic visit and we are pleased that the four ministers gave us this time to have a very productive conversation.”
The U.S. has decided to conduct historic visits to Ecuador now? Come on. According to Chapman, the head of the U.S. Committee for Science, Space and Technology, Lamar Smith, was the one who sent the delegates over to Ecuador. If you’re curious as to where Congressman Smith’s loyalties probably lie, look no further than who contributed to his campaigns over the past few years: Koch Industries, Northrop Grumman, Deloitte LLP, Honeywell International, Lockheed Martin, KPMG, Raytheon, Orbital ATK, Boeing, Valero Energy, Marathon Petroleum, and Alpine Group.
The guy’s as knee-deep in the military-industrial complex as Cambridge Analytica and if you feel like thanking Congressman Smith for being involved in what is likely a ploy to take Assange down, here’s his D.C. office phone number: 202-225-4236. Be polite and you’re welcome, Lamar.
MEETINGS WITH MILITARY LEADERS
“President @Lenin invited U.S. military officials to #Ecuador to ‘strengthen friendships between the two countries…discuss bilateral cooperation and fight against transnational narcotrafficking.’ In light of recent border assaults…”
In the same thread they also tweeted,
“Allowing a U.S. military base in Ecuadorean territory would deepen the shift in Ecuador’s defense and security policy, which was one of the reasons why we posted the following:”
(Attached retweet) “Unfortunately, we have reason to believe that @Lenin again have had talks with a certain Todd at @usembassy_quit #Quito and most likely also @marianorajoy”
So first, yes. On March 26, 2018, the day before Assange’s communications were cut, Lt. General Joseph DiSalvo of the U.S. Southern Command met with Ecuadorian military officials. According to the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador’s website, the visit was part of the “historical bilateral relations that the Southern Command has maintained with the Ecuadorian military authorities,” and one of the main areas of “bilateral cooperation” is transnational drug trafficking. Notice all the “bilateral” this, “bilateral” that stuff in the news lately? It’s like the CIA wrote the script for everyone.
Second, a U.S. military base in Ecuador would be a significant and questionable move on Moreno’s part. First, for those that weren’t aware, the U.S. did, at one time, have a military base in Ecuador. A 1999 agreement between the two countries allowed for the U.S. to use the Manta Military Base for free “on the premise of fighting drug trafficking in South America.”
One of the more infuriating provisions gave “immunity for [U.S.] personnel involved with the agreement as well their families, who in the case they were detained by Ecuadorean authorities would be delivered immediately to U.S. officials.” How unbelievably rich coming from the United States who is currently pressuring a small South American country to hand over Julian Assange.
Telesurtv.net ran a story two years ago about the sordid little side effects of having a military base in Ecuador which were brought to light via WikiLeaks documents: An increase in sexual exploitation of women and girls, sex workers, nightclubs, human trafficking, and drug trafficking. Additionally, the base was used to “train mercenaries to be sent into Iraq and to organize fumigation flights that wreaked havoc in the Amazon jungle reserves.” U.S. military ships apparently destroyed eight Ecuadorian vessels off the Ecuadorian coast and destitute citizens struggled to find work after land was taken for the base and fisherman were cut off from fishing in the port of Manta.
But then former President Correa came along and said,
“As long as I am president, I will not allow foreign bases in our homeland, I will not allow interference in our affairs, I will not negotiate our sovereignty and I will not accept guardians of our democracy…”
…and he kicked the U.S. out on September 18, 2009. Hugo Chavez said that the “Yankee empire will never forgive Rafael Correa for kicking them out of Manta and launching a Citizen’s Revolution.”
HISTORY OF CIA OPERATIONS IN ECUADOR
Of course the Yankees never forgave Correa for yanking their military base and for giving Julian Assange asylum. In 2010, a coup was staged by Colonel Mario Pazmino, the former Chief of Military Intelligence who was “very close to the CIA.” Although his car ended up with four bullet holes, Correa obviously survived the coup attempt. In 2012, Chilean journalist Patricio Mery Bell reported that the CIA and DEA were bringing in three hundred kilos of drugs into Chile every month. “The surplus profit…was used to fund destabilization efforts against the Ecuadorean [Correa] government.”
Craig Murray also reported back in 2012 that the U.S. and U.K. were plotting against Assange by trying to ensure former President Correa’s defeat in the 2013 elections. Upon success, they intended to expel him from the embassy.
A mere three years ago, Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry “printed and widely distributed” copies of a book written by former CIA agent Philip Agee as a public alert to citizens. Agee had denounced CIA operations he had witnessed between 1960-1963 in Ecuador. In those three years Agee claims the CIA oversaw,
“…the overthrow of two presidents; the infiltration of various political parties and organizations…and the planting of bombs in front of churches and other emblematic sites to frame leftists groups; among other actions.”
And folks, if you don’t think the CIA or Pentagon would put a bomb in front of a church because you can’t handle the truth, you need to grow up a little. They could, they would and they probably did. Just like I have no problem believing that they would finance the kidnapping and murder of two journalists and a driver.
More CIA tactics from Agee,
…manipulating public opinion, infiltrating political parties and organizations, conducting terrorist attacks which were falsely attributed to leftist movements, bribery, and espionage correspondence, among other activities.”
In a 2016 interview, Correa told the press (translated), “it was clear that there are activities of the CIA, of extraregional forces to try to destablize the progressive governments.” Of course U.S. Ambassador Chapman denied the allegations even though the CIA’s “fingerprints are visible in dozens of incidents in Ecuador.”
Another tactic that the CIA likes to employ is infiltrating university campuses. Hence, it’s fairly interesting to note that six days ago, Ecuadorian university, UTE, reported that they had signed an agreement “for use of television and radio studios,” as a practice space courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador. Apparently the studio is located in the embassy (you may want to double check that translation) and includes “a virtual studio and has lighting, cameras and cabins specially designed for audiovisual production, press conferences, interviews and training.”
UTE General Director, Nelson Cerda, stated that the agreement allows for students to have “real practice scenarios and also allows us to continue improving inter-institutional relations to enhance activities between the University and the Embassy.” Chapman was obviously on hand to sign the agreement with UTE which was the “first time a diplomatic mission opens its doors to this level of access and support for the Academy.” Yes, naturally it’s the first time it’s happened. Now. Of all times…
“Dear President Moreno, If Ecuador was threatened to silence Julian you need to say so. Otherwize people will assume you are complicit in the silencing of a brave truth telling journalist & willingly abetting crimes by corrupt power.”
This tweet is literally the epitome of what I’m driving at in this post. Without further public comments from Moreno, he risks not only his own reputation but the reputation of the Ecuadorian people and the country as a whole. Let’s be honest, the situation does not look good for him right now.
We know that Moreno wants a change in Ecuador’s economic policies which includes a trade agreement with the United States. He also wants help protecting the country’s northern border against an onslaught of violence that suspiciously started in January, 2018—the same month that Ecuador tried to mediate Assange’s situation. Additionally, Ambassador Todd Chapman with the help of Under Secretary Thomas Shannon, has literally bent over backwards to move along this glorious “bilateral relationship” that the United States all of a sudden so desperately wants with Ecuador. Offers from the United States have been put on the table, the specifics of which are unclear.
It’s no secret that the U.S. has offered their assistance to the Ecuadorian government and has provided training on some level. They may even be supplying intelligence and financing. But what no one is going to report on is the possibility that the United States is financing the violence along the northern border because that would never happen said no insurgent group in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. I mean, this has been the standard CIA playbook since the Soviet-Afghan War and it’s something that former CIA Director, soon-to-be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is more than familiar with. Remember when Julian Assange’s internet was cut in 2016 after former Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Ecuador? What do you think Pompeo has planned?
Is it possible that the the U.S. played Moreno by acting as a security solution for the violence they themselves created and then dangled economic incentives as a way to get to Julian Assange? Sure, anything’s possible. I mean, Moreno could be selling Assange out for tuna, it just depends on how desperate he is for economic change. Or maybe Moreno is indeed being threatened. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that the United States not only tried but successfully murdered an Ecuadorian president. If this is the case, Moreno is in a difficult position that could cost Assange dearly.
In the words of Christine Assange to President Moreno,
“Stand up for sovereignty of your country…don’t let down Ecuador, don’t let down Julian, don’t let down free press…stand strong, the people will stand with you.
Be remembered for the president who carried on the democracy in Ecuador, who stood strong and tall, and didn’t cave. You will be remembered for this. Don’t be remembered for the president who rolled over for yet another U.S. coup of a South American country.”
So…as difficult as it might be, as unforgiving as the burden is, we can only hope that President Moreno and the Ecuadorian people continue to keep Assange safe and do not bow down to the United States’ offers or demands in exchange for Assange’s silence. Let us hope that Moreno will #ReconnectAssange and give him safe passage sooner rather than later.