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29 Oct, 2013 11:23

Ecuador’s Correa in Moscow amid reheated NSA debate

Ecuador’s Correa in Moscow amid reheated NSA debate

Ecuador's president, one of the most vocal critics of Washington’s spying methods, has met for talks with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. His visit follows new NSA revelations which have brought US surveillance and Edward Snowden into the spotlight yet again.

After the Tuesday meeting, Rafael Correa – supporter of former CIA employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden – said that his country follows the principles of international law and “does not trade in human rights.”

Correa reiterated that Ecuador will consider granting political asylum to whistleblower Snowden should he make such a request.

If Snowden comes to the territory of Ecuador, for example, and goes to the diplomatic mission, we will accept his request and consider all the legal aspects to make a decision,” Correa said.

"We act primarily in compliance with our principle, not in compliance with conveniences," he added.

Though Ecuador’s economy largely depends on exports to the US, Rafael Correa has not shied away from being openly critical of Washington’s tactics. His leftist government declared it would not change its mind about offering Snowden asylum, even if it was threatened with sanctions.

 “At first they said it was necessary for fighting against terrorism. I don’t know if Angela Merkel is a terrorist. I think it is clear they used surveillance programs for economic reasons, for helping their transnational companies,” he told RT Spanish. He was referring to the latest leaks - according to which the NSA had an ear to the phones of 35 world leaders, including the German chancellor. 

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa takes part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow on October 29, 2013 (AFP Photo / Alexander Nemenov)

Ecuador’s president also said the NSA scandal revealed double standards in global politics, as Correa believes that any other country would have been put on international trial for such large-scale spying.  

But in this case nothing is going to happen, because international justice, as in the Chevron case, still does not work. And until now, justice works only for the convenience of the stronger. In this case, the stronger is the USA,” Correa said.

In June 2012, Ecuador granted asylum to Julian Assange - yet another whistleblower wanted in the US. Correa believes European countries could actually help end his confinement at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

“It’s now totally up to Britain, Sweden and Europe to resolve the situation. Britain is quite capable of granting a safe passage from the country to Assange, just the way it should do,” he said.

Latin American leaders have from the very start refrained from concealing their irritation over US surveillance practices and were much more vocal in their condemnation than their European counterparts.

The July visit of Bolivian President Evo Morales to Russia resulted in a major international scandal when his plane was denied airspace and forced to stay for 12 hours in Vienna. Correa then reacted by urging other South American leaders to “take action.” Through his Twitter account, the president said the situation was a test for all Latin American states to see if they had “graduated from the colonies.”  

Ecuador, Russia discuss future plans

Correa and Russia’s President Putin have discussed a range of issues including mutual trade, which reached a record-breaking $1.3 billion in 2012.

The two countries have several ongoing energy sector projects, including Ecuador’s proposal to Russian energy giant Gazprom to create an alliance with Ecuador’s Petroamazonas. The Latin American country wants to develop its own natural gas reserves instead of buying liquid gas from abroad, as it is doing now.

“Of course we are interested in the participation of Gazprom, as it is the largest gas company in the world,” said Correa on Tuesday.

Currently, Russian companies are already taking part in another energy project - the construction of the Toachi-Pilaton hydroelectric plant, at a cost of over $1 billion.

Correa has also stated that Ecuador is interested in buying Russian military transport in the form of Mil Mi helicopters and trucks.

He also expressed hope that Ecuador’s parliament will ratify the agreement with Russia in the nuclear sphere.

In Ecuador this document has caused a lot of noise, but it still has not been ratified. This agreement is primarily aimed at the exchange of knowledge and technology. This does not mean that it is aimed at the construction of nuclear power plants," Correa said.

Correa, who on Monday visited St. Petersburg, called on the city’s scientists to visit Ecuador and participate in the creation of a science city, specializing in bio- and nanotechnologies, information systems, and the textile industry. The Ecuadorian President is also expected to visit Russia’s IT hub in Skolkovo.