Edward Snowden, NSA Whistle-Blower, Wins Unusual Sympathizers in Latin America

  • Share
  • Read Later

Ecuador is no human-rights darling. Left-wing President Rafael Correa has built a decidedly authoritarian reputation that includes a yen for prosecuting journalists who irk him. This week he won passage of a media bill that slashes the number of private outlets, greatly increases state-controlled broadcasting and makes Correa the nation’s de facto media censor.

But Correa does care about shielding at least one free-speech advocate: Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who released thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables. Assange, hoping to avoid extradition to Sweden to answer sexual-assault charges — and possibly extradition to the U.S. for espionage — has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London since last summer, when Correa granted him political asylum. Because Assange can’t leave the embassy building, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño even declared this week that the U.K. is violating the pale-complected WikiLeaker’s “fundamental right to sunbathe.” (And no, you won’t find that in the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.)

(MORE: Four Things to Know About Surveillance Leaker Edward Snowden)

No wonder Assange this week said he thinks the whistle-blower of the moment, Edward Snowden — who is now in Hong Kong after admitting he leaked information about a secret and controversial U.S. domestic spying program to the media this month — should look south for sanctuary. “I would strongly advise [Snowden] to go to Latin America,” Assange told CNN.

Julian Assange

Leon Neal / AFP / Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he addresses media and supporters from the window of the Ecuadorean embassy in London on Dec. 20, 2012

But here’s the flaw, at least the p.r. flaw, in Assange’s thinking. The countries most inclined to take Snowden in — that is, those with leftist governments like Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, which would love to hold him up as an anti-U.S. trophy — also sport some of Latin America’s more checkered human-rights records these days. Specifically, their policies tend to mock the very free-speech, free-information crusade that leakers like Assange and Snowden champion.

Ecuador and Venezuela, for example, have some of the western hemisphere’s toughest antidefamation laws. You don’t just get dragged into civil court to face libel or slander complaints; if you insult or otherwise offend government officials, you can face a criminal trial and time behind bars.

(MORE: In Hong Kong Hideout, Snowden Faces Complex Legal System)

Before he died in March, Venezuela’s socialist firebrand President Hugo Chávez often used the “media responsibility” codes he enacted in the 2000s to combat what he called “the impunity of the bourgeoisie,” which was revolution-speak for opposition criticism. “Venezuela’s private, independent press has been weakened by blow after government blow over the past decade,” says Carlos Lauria, Americas director for the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. “What private outlets are left really don’t broadcast news anymore as a result. Dissent gets stifled.” In Ecuador, responding to global outcry, Correa finally pardoned a journalist and three newspaper executives last year after they’d been convicted, sentenced to prison terms and fined $40 million for criminally defaming him.

Hence the red embassy carpet Correa rolled out for Assange months later. The Ecuadorean President hoped WikiLeaks’ liberal cachet would rub off on his otherwise caudillo profile, not to mention build up his leadership stature inside Latin America’s leftist, anti-Yanqui bloc of nations, known as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, or ALBA. Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself no friend of press freedom or open government, no doubt had similar motives when he said this week he’d consider an asylum request from Snowden. Folks like Snowden, says Lauria, “do need to know how hypocritical it looks and sounds when countries like Ecuador try to wash their negative images and rights records by offering them asylum.”

(MORE: Viewpoint: Our Antiquated Laws Can’t Cope With National-Security Leaks)

That should have been apparent to Assange in recent years as ALBA countries led a drive to dismantle the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. That body, not coincidentally, has been critical of the press-muzzling policies and other antidemocratic practices gaining ground in many ALBA countries. At this month’s OAS general assembly in Guatemala, Ecuador headed a drive to pack the commission with ALBA-friendly members, but it was decisively rejected by the rest of the hemisphere.

Even in the rest of Latin America, factors like criminal and political violence against journalists — since 2010, 25 have been murdered in Honduras and 24 in Mexico — makes the region less than a place “that is really pushing forward in human rights,” as Assange somewhat naively put it this week. Granted, with the sole exception of Cuba, Latin America (and the Caribbean) is now a democratic street. But democratic elections are no guarantee of democratic governance — or of safe conditions for critical, investigative media.

Or, for that matter, for leakers, whistle-blowers and other defiant democrats (or traitors, depending on how you look at it) like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. It’s something they should keep in mind before seeking refuge in countries that might be shielding them simply as a way to shield themselves from human-rights criticism — or as an easy way to kick the U.S. in the shins.

MORE: What’s Next for Snowden: 10 Notorious Leakers and How They Fared

86 comments
DwightJones
DwightJones

Would we have been better off if the Germans and Japanese had won the war?  Surely surveillance and torture and militarism and crooked lobbyists would have been dealt with no worse than the US has to date. I think US citizens have been so propagandized that the situation is hopeless for this generation at least. We're stuck with the Nazism we supposed went to war to prevent.

khafee14
khafee14

@TIME @TIMEWorld as an Afghan I have no trust in socalled mainstream US media. Your job is to construct complicated propaganda.

purplerainT
purplerainT

@TIME Tim Padgett's article on Snowden and Assange was the most biased article I have ever read, Fox news would be proud

AndreaLalama
AndreaLalama

DITTO "Tim Padgett, never heard of you, and now I will, with extreme prejudice, discount your opinion. Based on history and facts, your opinion is extremely ignorant. I suggest going to Fox News, where you will have audience just as ignorant as you are."


AndreaLalama
AndreaLalama

Im from Ecuador and I have never ever experienced the persecution and lack of liberties I have feel and experience here in USA, ECUADOR IS A TRUE FREE COUNTRY IN ALL WAYS!!! This article is obviously paid by the bankers who are pissed off that Rafael Correa made them paid back the money they stole from poor people in Ecuador, Rafael is a nationalist born and raised in Ecuador that LOVES ECUADOR HE HAS NO SHAME TO SHOW HIS BIRTH CERTIFICATE AND HIS ENTIRE LIFE IS TRANSPARENT!!!! HE LOVES ECUADOR AND THE PEOPLE LOVES HIM!!! HE HAS NEVER EVER DICTATE OR MANDATE WITH "EXECUTIVE ORDERS" TO DO ANYTHING IN ECUADOR HE IS A LAWFUL MAN, HE ASKS THE PEOPLE OF ECUADOR IN REFERENDUMS AND PEOPLE HAS THE CHANCE TO DECIDE AND VOTE! NO REPRESENTATIVES "POLITICIANS" BUT THE ACTUAL PEOPLE VOTES TO PASS LAWS IN ECUADOR!! PEOPLE CANNOT BE INCARCERATED WITHOUT PROVE, ECUADOR DOES NOT HAS A "PATRIOTIC ACT" DOESN'T HAVE A "NDAA" OR ANY LAW THAT TAKES BASIC LIBERTIES FROM PEOPLE, LIKE THEIR RIGHT TO EAT RAW MILK, HE DOESN'T GO KILLING ORGANIC FARM ANIMALS, HE DOESN'T SUPPORT CORPORATIONS BUT THE PEOPLE IS ALWAYS FIRST!!! RAFAEL IS AN EXAMPLE OF HOW A TRUE PRESIDENT AND A TRUE LIDER SHOULD BE WITH THEIR PEOPLE!!! HE IS NOT TRAVELING IN A 100 MILLION DOLLARS TRIPS WHILE HIS PEOPLE ARE WITHOUT HOMES! AND HE COULD! ECUADOR IS A OPEC COUNTRY! OIL PRODUCES A LOT OF MONEY! BUT CORREA GIVES THE MONEY BACK TO THE ECUADORIAN PEOPLE!! READ HOW MANY AMERICANS ARE GOING TO LIVE IN ECUADOR BECAUSE THE PERSECUTION IN USA IS INTOLERABLE!!! JULIAN ASSANGE IS IN THE ECUADORIAN EMBASSY FOR A REASON!!! AND NOW SNOWDEN IS IN THE ECUADORIAN EMBASSY IN RUSSIA FOR A REASON!!!! 

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

Tim Padget from Miami, it couldn't be otherwise. A city full of Gusanos.  The hatred for everything that doesn't smell the type of DEMOCRACY embedded in their obsequious minds, is not a democracy. If a president like bush enacts a law, as the Patriot Act, limiting the freedoms of the American People, is a PRESIDENT using the law to PROTECT the American people. Then Obama came and continued with this aberration, then he is using the power given to him by the majority of the people. Nowhere we read that journalists like this or others of the FREEST PRESS OF THE WORLD, LABELLING THESE TWO LEADERS AS CAUDILLOS.

 When Bush accepted the asylum of two recognized Cuban terrorists, that blew a civilian jet in Venezuela, he was a President making use of his prerogative  as such. But, wow, when a CAUDILLO as President Correa gives asylum to an activist for the freedom of information, like Assange, then he is trespassing the boundaries of decency traced by the righteous Americans. Then, when a DANGEROUS CAUDILLO like this, dares defy the edicts of the Empire, the Empire has all the right to demonize this Caudillo through the defenders of democracy as this journalist, Tim Padget, or worse, the Empire has all the right to promote a COUP D''ETAT, that wasn't successful against the CAUDILLO.( Don't forget the other COUP DÉTAT organized by the CIA against president Chavez when he was alive, and again it wasn't successful).

So, recapping, when I read journalist like these feeding this kind of crap to the uninformed American citizen at large and forming an skewed opinion on the people, I only think, OH DEMOCRACY, IN YOUR NAME TURDS LIKE THIS HAS THE POWER TO MAKE THIS WORLD A HELL OF A PLACE.

jsn.plnt
jsn.plnt

This article is misleading. The government made changes to the laws concerning media, and did so according to their laws. President Rafael Correa doesn't simply dictate and he word is done. Ecuador Stopped allowing multinational corporations to control media, that is it. The media is more free and independent there than America, by a long shot. Ecuador is a peaceful country that respects human rights and cherishes their independence, that is the truth. America uses their media control and diplomatic (spy/cia) posts as psychological warfare to try to dominate the world agenda (their agenda). When countries say that's enough there is often a smear campaign retaliation.

commenterjoe
commenterjoe

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 12.
  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 5.
  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 8.
  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.  (Note: That would be the U.S. Constitution which Snowden is DEFENDING and the U.S. Government is attacking.)
Article 14.
  • (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  • (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 19.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.  (Note: Snowden's remarks ARE HIS OPINIONS - Snowden has NOT RELEASED ANY PROOF i.e. stolen documents, etc.   The U.S. Government is attacking Snowden SOLELY FOR WHAT HE SAID AS HIS OPINION. )

ChristianCruz
ChristianCruz

Awful article, full of preconceived ideas and creative, but destructive imaginary speculation, specially about Ecuador, making it look like an anti-america country. Terrible jornalism! Examples: "...prosecuting journalists who irk him" , "...would love to hold him up as an anti-U.S. trophy...", "...their policies tend to mock the very free-speech, free-information..." "...The Ecuadorean President hoped WikiLeaks’ liberal cachet would rub off on his otherwise caudillo profile..." WOW! Is this journalism? or is it a judge and a jury talking?

PaulCheung
PaulCheung

We count on western countries to uphold some universal good faiths. Now, it is very disappointing. Major US officials accuse Snowden of foreign spy without providing evidence. Same skill is used by the Chinese communist government to frame people in numerous cases.

Extreme anti-terrorism is developed into terrorism in many examples. US government should carefully balance the need and the risk.


JACOBAYUBI
JACOBAYUBI

@Liberationtech I think it's about time that govt's realized that they are becoming very unpopular with the ppl. People R waking up & angry.

duncan_shona
duncan_shona

The president of Ecuador is a lovely man, the reason why independent media is censored is because it is USA propaganda.  You know that.  Julian Assange is not Anti-American, he's anti subversion of state by criminals in powerful political positions. If you hadn't realised that by now, you never will.  Stop writing rubbish.

CamiloErazo
CamiloErazo

the right-centre wing moderate countries in latinamerica like  colombia, brazil, paraguay, chile have to deal with the hipocrazy of their neighbours. Venezuela and Ecuador have the worst reputation on this matter, Since correa´s and Chavez´s election as well the only thing we hear is news about journalists being criminalized and put on jail for denouncing or making opposition, banned newspapers and whats the worst shuted down media groups..., so this protection confered by anty free-speech governments is just another contradiction in the way they manage their international image. shame on us.

JQRyder
JQRyder

It's a little difficult to make a case for hypocrisy about human rights and abuses of a free press after the decline in the U.S.'s record on both counts in recent years.

redleg
redleg

america is the best country in the world and ever. all other countries are TERRIBLE in comparison.  that's why the rest of the world is obsessed with the US.  i thank god i was born here. to all of you in other places . . . too bad! 

Loving
Loving

How can you, an American, speak of hypocrisy?  

Breathtaking.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@RamonRoman  

hOOrAy foR RAndoM CapITaL leTTErs.  THey maKe Me LOOK so IntELligEnT aNd rEALly geT MY poInT aCRoSs

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@duncan_shona 

 "stop writing rubbish" says the woman writing rubbish.  hi pot, my name is kettle. did you know we're both black?

MegP
MegP

@DwightJones Wow. Hmmm. Well, we were told there would be further details coming from Snowden's revelations. But for me this is pretty astounding - wonder which govts knew this was happening and which didn't. I wonder about  other aspects also, but anything I come up with is pure speculation. It will be interesting to learn what the attending govts say to their publics!

AndreaLalama
AndreaLalama

@CamiloErazo CORREA HAS NOT BANNED ANY NEWS PAPER! STOP THE LIES! SHOW ONE SINGLE JOURNALIST IN ECUADOR THAT IT'S IN JAIL! ONE!! THERE IS CERO!!! STOP BEING A LIER AND INSULT A COUNTRY THAT YOU PROBABLY HAVE NEVER EVER EVEN BEEN THERE! 


hummus
hummus

@JQRyder The fact that you, or anyone else for that matter, can make that comment in a major public forum without any fear of reprisal gives the lie to any sort of false equivalence between the US and a country like Ecuador.

apilgrim
apilgrim

@JQRyder Eh, pointing a finger at the US doesn't change the reality that Assange is a hypocrite by action and word.

jsn.plnt
jsn.plnt

@redleg People are not obsessed with America and you are not bright enough to see that. People are angry with America because of all the harm and suffering they cause to others. I do believe with an idiotic comment like that you are just trying to provoke a response, but I had to reply, just in case.

MegP
MegP

@redleg  It's interesting to live outside the US for a time and discover that citizens in other nations are very often quite content, believe and say their nation is the best place to live, and by all reports shake their heads at some of what has developed in the US in the last several decades.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@Loving  

how can you, a human prone to emotions and opinions and passing judgements just like everyone else, speak of hypocrisy as if you're immune from it? 

breathtakingly ignorant

apilgrim
apilgrim

@Loving I would imagine that the author set down at a keyboard and then proceeded to type out the words.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@cjh2nd @RamonRoman Sometimes is more than necessary to use capital letters so ignorant like you can grasp the idea being conveyed. If you notice, they are not random, they are a little help for the writer to show the importance of that capital letter in the sentence. If you are trying to mock me with your reply, the only thing that you manifest with the not so funny use of your capital letter is your lack of brain to even try to figure out what my comment was all about. I bet anything that you don't really know what it was all about, that's why you preferred to mock instead of criticizing the idea or lack of it, of my comment. If you are not going to add something fruitful to the conversation, you'd better SHUT UP.

JQRyder
JQRyder

@hummus @JQRyder there's a difference between false equivalence and claims to purity in the face of evidence to the contrary - I don't doubt I'm freer to express myself here - on the other hand, the decline in standards in practically every facet of our culture is undeniable and undeniably accelerating

Loving
Loving

@apilgrim @Loving , yes, it seems that you are like him, if you think that is all there is to it. Yes, for those with not conscience, who long ago sacrificed their humanity, for stuff, their soul, for stuff... yes, it is EXACTLY as easy as you say.  Yes, that's the point.  Thank you.