Why Ecuador Is Sheltering Julian Assange

In 2011, U.S.-Ecuador relations hit a new low when Correa kicked out American ambassador Heather Hodges after reading a Wikileaks cable in which she had criticized Ecuadorean police corruption. (Correa is still bitter about her comments; he recently denounced Hodges for having an “imperialist attitude.”) This effectively torpedoed the Obama administration’s effort to improve bilateral ties. The administration had kept relatively quiet about Correa’s attacks on democracy and press freedom, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had met with the Ecuadorean president in Quito in 2010. Remarkably, the administration continued to treat Correa with kid gloves even after the expulsion of Hodges and the sentencing of Emilio Palacio.

The Obama strategy was based on a faulty premise. Relations between Washington and Quito did not sour because of incompetence, rigidness, or hostility from the Bush administration. They soured because Correa is a strongly anti-American leftist who thrives on confrontation and favors the ideological vision of Hugo Chávez. As former Clinton administration official Eric Farnsworth has written in Americas Quarterly, Correa and his fellow Chávez disciples “do not particularly want to have a partnership with the U.S. at this juncture.”

After witnessing the Assange ordeal, does anyone still doubt that?

(Click here for the Spanish-language version of this article.)