In October, Ecuador acknowledged that it partly restricted Internet access for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is taking refuge at its London embassy. Ecuador has disclosed that Mr Assange had in recent weeks released material that could have an impact on the presidential election in the United States, which will take place on 8 November.
In a statement, the Ecuadorean foreign ministry disclosed that WikiLeaks’ decision to publish documents could have an impact on the US presidential election adding that the release was entirely the responsibility of the organization, and that Ecuador did not want to interfere in the electoral process. The statement went on to say “in that respect, Ecuador, exercising its sovereign right, has temporarily restricted access to part of its communications systems in the UK Embassy,” adding that “Ecuador does not yield to pressure from other countries.” WikiLeaks had earlier stated that Ecuador had cut off Mr Assange’s Internet access on the evening of 15 October. The US has denied WikiLeaks accusations that it had asked Ecuador to stop the site from publishing documents relating to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
WikiLeaks has recently been releasing material from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including those from a hack of Mrs Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails. On 15 October, the site released transcripts of paid speeches that Mrs Clinton made to the US investment bank Goldman Sachs in the past, which her campaign had long refused to release. According to the latest leaked emails, Mrs Clinton told a Goldman Sachs conference that she would like to intervene secretly in Syria. She made the remark in answer to a question from Lloyd Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, in 2013, just months after she left office as secretary of state. She also told employees of a bank in South Carolina, which had paid here about US $225,000 to give a speech, that “my view was you intervene as covertly as is possible for Americans to intervene,” adding,” we used to be much better at this than we are now. Now, you know, everybody can’t help themselves…They have to go out and tell their friendly reporters and somebody else: Look what we’re doing and I want credit for it.” The scripts revealed bantering exchanges with bank executives, which sources say may increase concerns among liberal Democrats that she is too cosy with Wall Street. The Democratic White House candidate’s camp has claimed that the cyber-breach was carried out by Russian hackers with the aim of undermining the US democratic process. Furthermore, while Mrs Clinton’s team has neither confirmed nor denied the leaked emails are authentic, there have been no indications that they are fake.
Transparency activist Julian Assange has sought asylum at London’s Ecuadorean embassy since 2012 in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex assault allegations.
In Ecuador demonstrators have called for a nationwide strike to protest moves made by President Rafael Correa to secure a fourth term in office and increase taxation. In response, Correa has called out his own supporters and hinted darkly that a coup attempt organised by his political rivals may be in the offing.
In office since 2007, Correa is not presently able to stand for re-election in 2017. He has, however, lent his support to a constitutional reform package that would would enable him to hold office indefinitely. This, in addition to an economic slowdown brought about by declining crude oil prices has hit the South American country hard and caused widespread discontent. Nevertheless, Correa remains a relatively popular figure, especially amongst the nation’s poor. Over the last eight years, Correa has been publicly feted for re-investing the country’s oil wealth into infrastructure projects like new roads, schools and hospitals, and for dramatically reducing poverty. As recently as 2013, he was re-elected with a large majority after embracing the ideals of Venezuelan-style 21st Century Socialism. A divisive figure, Correa continues to maintain that his fiscal reforms will promote more effective wealth distribution throughout the country.
On Thursday, union leaders, workers, business owners and indigenous Ecuadorians blocked roads to the capital Quito, united by their opposition to Correa but motivated by often conflicting principles. From the business sector, protestors demonstrated against the introduction of import tariffs and a 75% tax on capital gains from inheritances and real estate sales. At the same time, union leaders were angered by the introduction of a labour code that they claim would criminalise dissent by removing freedoms of protest and association. Indigenous protesters, who have been amongst the most vocal critics of Correa, blocked roads in six of Ecuador’s twenty four provinces, including the Pan-American Highway near the Cotopaxi volcano, a popular tourist attraction. According to Carlos Perez, a protest leader and one of the many indigenous Ecuadoreans who journeyed 800 kilometres to Quito to take part in the demonstrations said “We have declared an uprising. For us, Correa has fallen from grace. He doesn’t represent us anymore…We don’t want indefinite reelection because we’re going to end up in a dictatorship.”
Police have been deployed in key cities throughout Ecuador, including 5,000 officers in Quito, but so far there have been no reports of serious violence breaking out. By and large, the protests have not succeeded in galvanising the kind of grass root support necessary to force Correa from office. Despite the call for a nationwide strike, education, transport and health services were all functioning normally in the country’s largest cities. On Twitter, Correa called the strike a failure, saying “Situation normal in all major cities.”