Ecuador, which has already granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, is now assisting NSA leaker Edward Snowden in his international flight from American apprehension, making the South American nation the safest harbor for those on the run from America. Its president, Rafael Correa, has never been a big fan of the U.S., but "nothing Correa has done to rankle the United States is likely to infuriate as much as granting the asylum" to Snowden, the Associated Press's Peter Orsi wrote today. But infuriate, it appears, Correa will. Ecuador informed Russia that it is "considering the petition for asylum on the part of Mr. Snowden," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said during a diplomatic trip to Hanoi on Monday. Patino said he was not concerned about Ecuador's relationship with the U.S.: "There are some governments that act more upon their own interests, but we do not... We act upon our principles."
We need to clarify exactly which principles Patino's referring to. For instance, they do not include a devotion to freedom of the press. "Ecuador's media law, approved last week, establishes official media overseers, imposes sanctions for besmirching personal reputations and limits private ownership to a third of radio and TV licenses," Orsi writes. The key principle is more likely that angering the U.S. is good domestic politics for President Correa.
Correa has long been critical of American policies in his country, viewing them as "arrogant," The New York Times' Peter Baker and Ellen Barry reported yesterday. In 2006, when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez compared President George W. Bush to Satan, Correa said that was "unfair to the devil." Of his reputation in the U.S., he's said, "With all due respect, knowing the North American media, I would be more worried if they spoke well of me."
In 2008, Correa claimed an American Air Force base in Ecuador was being used to collect intelligence — and that the U.S. gave that intel to Colombia, which raided Correa's country. (The U.S. base was created to help fight the War on Drugs, which is not the most popular policy among America's southern neighbors.) Correa shut down the base, and last year, in an interview with Assange, said, "OK, there isn’t any problem with a U.S. base being set up in Ecuador. We can give the go-ahead as long as we are granted permission to set up an Ecuadorian military base in Miami." Correa frequently accuses the U.S. of imperialism and infiltrating the country with spies — including local journalists, The Washington Post's Max Fisher explains. He's used the fear of journalist spies as justification to crack down on his critics in the press.
Ecuador has been fighting Chevron for two decades over the company's allegedly dumping 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, plus 17 million gallons of crude oil, in the country's northeastern rain forest in the 1970s and 1980s, the Christian Science Monitor reported. (Ecuador found Chevron liable for $9 billion, and Chevron appealed.) And, The Guardian explains, Ecuador gets lots of support from China, so it has to worry less about angering America.
That's one of the reasons Ecuador may be a more hospitable diplomatic sponsor for Snowden than the more famous anti-American country, Venezuela, which despite the rhetoric of its late President Hugo Chavez, depended on the U.S. as the No. 1 buyer of its oil. :
Ecuador has other perks for Snowden, too. The Guardian's Jonathan Watts notes that Ecuador has less crime and inequality than Venezuela. On top of all that, Ecuador has lovely, affordable beaches! (Photo of Quinto's Sun Festival above.) Snowden reportedly left Hong Kong because he was afraid of losing access to the Internet — and Ecuador's Internet access is, well, not horrible. The country is aiming for half of all households to have access to the Internet by 2015.
Photos: Cars from the Ecuadorian embassy in Moscow outside Sheremetyevo airport today, where Snowden didn't show up on a flight to Cuba, as photographed (inset) by the AP's Max Seddon. Click here for live updates on the Snowden stakeout.