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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Mexican Leader Announces Nationwide Crime Crackdown

Announcement comes as Mexican authorities find 11 mutilated bodies in violence-racked Guerrero state
More

Soccer Icon Pele Moved to Special Care Unit

Legendary soccer player's personal aide says Pele, who is suffering a urinary tract infection, is 'completely fine,' move was primarily to protect his privacy
More

Venezuela’s Military Introduces Hugo Chavez Course

Fans say it promotes late leader’s humanist values; critics deride it as deification
More

Video Talks on New UN Climate Treaty Set Next Week in Peru

Representatives from 200 countries will discuss emissions reductions, setting stage for broader talks in 2015
More

Colombia's FARC Free Two Soldiers to Restart Talks

Troops taken captive in restive eastern department of Arauca in November 9 military operation freed with help of ICRC
More

FARC Leader Faults Colombia's Suspension of Peace Talks

Guerrilla chief Rodrigo Londono says government's action violates terms of agreement that brought rebels to negotiating table
More