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Assange and Catalonia: problems for Moreno 

Leer en Español: Assange y Cataluña: problemas para Moreno

The support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange towards the Catalan separatists has created various enemies, including the current Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno. The Head of State has asked the Australian hacker to stay out of the Spanish debate over the possible secession of the region.

Assange responded to the president over Twitter, where he also accused Moreno of trying to silence him. "If President Moreno wants to muzzle my complaint of human rights abuses in Spain, he should say it explicitly, along with the legal basis", asserted Assange in his social media account.

A few weeks ago, Assange participated in a videoconference in which he urged the people of Barcelona to continue their fight for independence. Moreno, however, has affirmed, after this eventuality, that he doesn’t want his allies to turn into potential enemies.

César Ricaurte, the head of the Ecuadorian press freedom group Fundamedios, told the Washington Post that he believes President Moreno was "looking for a way to free himself” of Assange. "He has become this great conspirator against major democracies", affirmed Ricaurte.

However, the Foreign Minister, due to the accusations of Ricaurte, denied the assertion and in a statement clarified that "there is no change in the situation of Assange [...] and that it is not true that Ecuador is reviewing the conditions of the asylum that was provided for the Australian journalist in June 2012 ".

On September 27th, President Moreno himself spoke about Assange's case and stated that "[the Ecuadorian government] will keep the founder of WikiLeaks as long as necessary and his integrity must be protected."

Ramiro Crespo, a financial analyst in Quito, capital of Ecuador, predicts that the president is not in the right spot to act on the Assange case, since he should first focus on winning the political war against former President Rafael Correa.

Crespo emphasizes that Moreno has an approval rating of 80%, but does not have a clear legislative majority, since his Alianza País party is divided between Correa's supporters and the reformists. "Moreno has to choose his battles and dismantle Correa's machinery little by little. Assange's situation is not priority, at the moment, but Moreno could decide to make a move once he feels stronger and has the control he seeks", clarified Crespo.

For this Ecuadorian analyst, Moreno’s exit strategies could include the president convincing Assange to leave the embassy voluntarily or suspend indefinitely the WikiLeaks activist's internet connection, as Correa did briefly before the 2016 United States presidential election, in order to force him to refrain from political activity.

On May 19th, Sweden shelved the latest investigation against the journalist for sexual offenses. However, the United Kingdom refused to lift the arrest warrant against him, so Assange still remains under political asylum. The founder of WikiLeaks was arrested in London on December 2010 at the request of the Swedish government, released on bail and after exhausting all resources to avoid extradition, he applied for asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy on June 19th, 2012.

 

Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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