Ecuador’s Presidential Elections Could Decide Julian Assange’s Fate
A leading presidential candidate has vowed to end Assange’s asylum if elected.
Julian Assange’s days of asylum may be numbered, depending on how Ecuador’s presidential elections go. Guillermo Lasso, a leading candidate in Ecuador’s presidential race, said he would boot the Wikileaks chief out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London if he wins the upcoming presidential elections next week.
More than four years after Assange got asylum, he has long overstayed his welcome in the embassy, Lasso said in an interview with the Guardian. “We will cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate.”
Lasso trails the ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno by seven points according to the latest polls, but is well-positioned to win a runoff vote.
Ecuador granted Assange asylum in 2012 to prevent his extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault accusation, with Western intelligence agencies hot on his trail. Ecuador’s self-described ‘anti-imperialist’ president Rafael Correa spurned the United States and gained international prominence by agreeing to shelter Assange.
But since then, the country has started feeling buyer’s remorse. British intelligence closely monitors the embassy. And Assange, who hasn’t stepped foot outside the embassy in four years, is starting to wear on their patience.
“Our staff have been through a lot. There is a human cost,” said Guillaume Long, Ecuador’s foreign minister. “This is probably the most watched embassy on the planet.” In October, 2016, the embassy even cut off Assange’s internet access, citing concerns over Wikileaks involvement in the U.S. presidential race hackings.
“The Ecuadorian people have been paying a cost that we should not have to bear,” said Lasso, a leader in the conservative Creo-Suma political alliance.
Though Lasso is still trailing, he has gained momentum as the most likely candidate to oust Moreno after an initial round of voting on Feb. 19 is expected to lead to a runoff vote. It’s safe to say Assange is following this election closely, too.
Photo credit: Carl Court / Staff