Is Ecuador America's new enemy number one? President Correa could come under attack for appealing to Assange

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (AFP Photo / Aizar Raldes)
Julian Assange asked the nation of Ecuador to grant him political asylum on Tuesday. But now as the WikiLeaks founder awaits their response, will the US find a new Latin American enemy number one in Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa?

The Unites States’ relationships with Latin American countries have been largely bittersweet, especially since the Cold War created a national enemy out of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. Since retiring from that post, Hugo Chavez has succeeded Castro by fulfilling the position of the United States’ Latin American scapegoat. Now battling cancer, Chavez may soon find another Latin American president becoming America’s arch enemy. In the last few years, President Rafael Correa has come to fruition as a Latin American leader that is not only encouraging change in his country of Ecuador, but is being subjected to increased scrutiny from the US by his refusal to side with American agendas.

As Assange awaits Ecuador’s response to his request for asylum, the future of the famed WikiLeaks leader isn’t the only question left unknown. Pending Ecuador’s answer, the United States might very well use it as an excuse to go after Correa.

“I love and admire the American people a great deal. Believe me, the last thing I’d be is anti-American. However, i will always call a spade a spade,” Correa told Assange during a recent episode of the his television program on RT. “And if there are international US policies that are detrimental to our country, or even to that of Latin America, I will denounce them strongly. And I will never, ever allow my country’s sovereignty to be affected by them.”

“Relating to the US, ours is always been a relationship based on affection and friendship,” says Correa. The bond between the two nations, however, is once that must rely on mutual respect and sovereignty, he adds.

Although the United States and Ecuador were allies during the early days of the Correa administration, the two countries have been at odds in recent years over America’s insistence on pushing policy south of their own border. In response, Correa has insisted on abolishing funding the US embassy provided to Ecuadorian law enforcement and led a campaign to successfully close America’s military base in the city of Manta, one of the largest air fields operated by the United States outside of the continental US.

“It’s not a problem to set up a US base in Ecuador,” Correa tells Assange. “We can give the go ahead as long as we are granted permission to set up an Ecuadorian military base in Miami. If it’s not an issue, they should agree.”

Relations between the countries have only worsened in the last year after a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks revealed that the United States ambassador to Ecuador was critical of the Correa administration, prompting the president to remove her from the role.

“She was a woman totally against our government,” Correa tells Assange. “A woman of extreme right wing views that still lived in the Cold War of the 1960s.” According to the cables released by WikiLeaks, Correa says the former ambassador “wrote that her own Ecuadorian contacts told her that the chief of the national police was corrupt and that surely I had given him that post knowing he was corrupt so that I could control him.”

According to Correa, reform is necessary in Latin America, especially in Ecuador where he believes that money is influencing politics to a degree that isn’t being brought to attention outside of the country’s borders. His agitation with oil companies has irritated the US in the past, but now his campaign against the banking giants that own the Ecuadorian media is causing a stir as well. Correa has praised WikiLeaks for letting the world know the true intentions of secret governments, and says that he salutes them because he has nothing to lose through another leak.

“Those that don’t owe anything have nothing to fear,” says the president. “We have nothing to hide. Your WikiLeaks has made us stronger.”

That same stance, however, has been the impetus behind America’s attack on Assange and WikiLeaks. Correa says that Ecuador’s media “was and probably is greater than the political power,” and that WikiLeaks is instrumental in informing the rest of the world that, as he puts it, “the big voters, the powerful legislators, the mighty judges, that have set the media agenda; this way they have subdued government, presidents and courts.”

As America continues to find a way to fly Assange to the states to prosecute him for his role in leaking classified documents, the behind-the-scenes war between the US and Ecuador may soon heat up. And as Correa is expected to come to power as the most important name in Latin American politics, it wouldn’t be unlikely that the US will be looking for reasons to rally against Ecuador.