News / Americas

    Ecuador, Unusual Destination for Free Press Asylum Seeker

    Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño speaks to reporters in Hanoi, Vietnam,  June 24, 2013.
    Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño speaks to reporters in Hanoi, Vietnam, June 24, 2013.
    Brian Padden
    In asking for political asylum from the government of Ecuador, NSA leaker Edward Snowden seems to be contradicting his earlier statement that he would look for a country that believes in protecting free speech and global privacy.  The South American country’s democratic but increasingly authoritarian government has been criticized by human rights groups for imprisoning journalists and political opponents.

    Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño says his government will consider Snowden’s request for asylum because of the risk of persecution from the government of the United States.

    "The state will consider the request, but also will consider some important international principles under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," said Patiño.

    On one hand, it is understandable why Edward Snowden, who leaked details of a top secret U.S. surveillance program, would look to Ecuador for asylum. Last year, Ecuador granted asylum to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, who remains in that country's embassy in London. He is under extradition from Sweden on rape charges. Assange and Wikileaks have been assisting Snowden in avoiding extradition to the U.S. on charges of espionage.

    Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has been a harsh critic of Washington, and these asylum cases could enhance his international stature.  Carl Meacham, the director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says the Ecuadorian leader wants to be seen on the same level as the Castros in Cuba and the late Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.  

    “The countries in the world that don’t like the United States, what it stands for, that they would see him as a leader in that effort to say these things that are negative and point out faults with American foreign policy," said Meacham.

    Even though President Correa obtained a doctorate in economics from the University of Illinois, he is critical of what he calls U.S. imperialism and capitalism. The president describes himself as a Christian Leftist, and defaulted on foreign loans he said were "illegitimate."  He closed a U.S. airbase in Ecuador, saying the U.S. could keep the base if Ecuador could operate a similar base in Miami.
     
    But on the other hand, Ecuador is an unusual destination for advocates of free speech, transparency and human rights. The opposition in Ecuador has accused President Correa of dictatorial policies. Reporters Without Borders criticized the presdient for shutting down several broadcasting outlets that were critical of the government.  José Miguel Vivanco, with Human Rights Watch says Ecuador recently passed some of the most restrictive media laws of any democratic country in the world, laws that ironically forbid the media from disseminating classified information.  

    “The case of Ecuador is unique in the region in terms of standards that imposed prior censorship on the media, even creates an environment for self-censorship and criminal punishment for journalists or anyone who cross the line," said Vivanco.

    While espionage and treason are not covered under Ecuador’s extradition treaty with the U.S., the United States does have some economic leverage. Ecuador relies on the U.S. for 45 percent of its exports. Under the Andean Trade Preferences Act, it is allowed to ship many goods duty free.  Congress must soon vote to renew the program, but could opt to exclude Ecuador if its leaders give Snowden asylum.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    US to Address Illegal Immigration From Central America

    Costa Rica will aid in screening, and Obama administration will expand Central American Minors program to provide safer, more orderly entries of qualified youths

    85 Russian Athletes Barred from Rio Olympics Over Doping

    Among them - 2012 Olympic champion Alexander Dyachenko, one of five canoeists named in recent WADA report, alleging state-sponsored doping cover-up

    Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    Locals say there are many entangled issues at the border that require clearheaded examination, not heated rhetoric

    Colombia Declares End to Zika Epidemic Inside Country

    Colombia has reported nearly 100,000 cases of infection, with 21 cases of Zika-related microcephaly

    Life on the Line in Venezuela as Economic Crisis Worsens

    As country's lines have grown longer and more dangerous, they have become not only the stage for everyday life, but a backdrop to death

    Colombian Drug Lord Gets 35 Years in US Prison

    Daniel Barrera, convicted of trafficking hundreds of tons of cocaine, also fined $10 million