As WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holes up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London seeking political asylum, and facing arrest if he steps outside, a televised interview gives clues as to why the famous freedom-of-information activist turned to Ecuador for help.
Assange has been battling extradition to Sweden over accusations of sexual assault, claiming that he would be shunted to the United States and prosecuted for revealing its secrets. While under house arrest in Britain, Assange interviewed Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on his show, "The World Tomorrow," on Russia Today.
The videolink interview above reveals the philosophical harmony and rapport between the two men, who traded praise for each other. During the roughly 25-minute show, the leftist Correa denounced the United States as an arrogant, overreaching power and praised WikiLeaks for shedding light on its actions.
Correa argued that leaked diplomatic cables "made us stronger" because the key accusations were "due to our excessive nationalism and defense of the sovereignty of the Ecuadorean government." Last year, Ecuador expelled U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges after the cables were released by WikiLeaks. The leaked cables included revelations that Hodges suspected Correa of knowing about police corruption.
As Assange grinned and chuckled at his remarks about U.S. power -- at one point he quipped that Latin America was moving from "the Washington consensus" to "the Consensus without Washington" -- Correa asked through an interpreter, "Are you having a lot of fun with the interview, Julian?"
"I am enjoying your jokes a great deal, yes," Assange replied with a smile.
"These people disguised as journalists are trying to do politics to destabilize our governments so that no change takes place in our region, for fear of losing the power they have always flaunted about," Correa argued passionately.
"President Correa, I agree with your market description of the media," Assange replied. "We have seen this again and again -- that big media organizations that we have worked with … have censored our material against our agreements when they published it for political reasons or to protect oligarchs."
Correa ends the interview by joking: "Cheer up. Welcome to the club of the persecuted."
Assange replied, "Thank you. Take care. Don't get assassinated."
Ecuador has expressed the possibility of welcoming in Assange before: Two years ago, its then-deputy foreign minister said he wanted to grant him residency, to allow him a haven to speak out. At the time, President Correa said he had not approved the offer. The idea quickly disappeared from the headlines.
There are suggestions that the show itself may have spurred the idea: The Associated Press reported that a woman who was present claimed that Assange received an offer of asylum during the May show.
Ecuadorean Ambassador Anna Alban said Wednesday that while weighing his application for asylum, the country would "take into account Ecuador's long and well-established tradition in supporting human rights," while not interfering with British or Swedish government processes.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Video: Julian Assange interviews Rafael Correa on his show on Russia Today. Credit: Russia Today / YouTube