March 8, 2014
Ecuadoreans rally behind president over Assange asylum
Hundreds of Ecuadoreans marched on Monday in support of the government's decision to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a saga that could help President Rafael Correa if he seeks re-election.
Ecuador is outraged at Britain for threatening to enter its embassy in London where the Australian anti-secrecy campaigner -- faced with extradition to Sweden for questioning over rape and sexual assault accusations -- has taken refuge.
There is also a wider power game at play between Ecuador and the bloc of left-wing Latin American governments it belongs to, and the United States.
Correa supports Assange's claim that he is at risk of being sent to the United States for punishment over Wikileaks' 2010 release of a deluge of US diplomatic cables and secret army documents.
"We're here to support the timely and correct decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange and also to reject the hostile reaction of Great Britain in cahoots with United States," said Betty Wanda, a 28-year-old lawyer, among a crowd outside the presidential palace in Quito on Monday.
Correa is already very popular and appears to be drawing more support with his stance on Assange. He has portrayed the standoff with London as a principled struggle between a small nation against a "colonial power."
There have been small protests outside the British Embassy in the Andean nation's highland capital, and graffiti has sprung up showing support for Correa.
Correa's government says it is open to negotiations with Britain and Sweden, but there have been no talks since Aug. 15.
Ecuador might take the case to the International Court of Justice, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Monday, but would prefer other alternatives like convincing London to allow Assange to travel to Ecuador or provide guarantees he would not be extradited to the United States.