By Denis Rogyatuk.
The arrest, sentencing and the plans for the extradition of Julian Assange from the United Kingdom to the United States continue to prompt waves of condemnation from all around the world, along with disgust at the Ecuadorian government of Lenin Moreno (pictured) and his increasing subordination to the US.
This was the first time in living memory that a government allowed a foreign law enforcement agency to enter its sovereign territory, the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and take into their custody a publisher whose status as a refugee has been recognised by the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International and other international organisations.
As confirmed by a number of investigative articles and publications, this act of political cynicism was motivated by the acquisition of $4.2 billion in IMF loans, as well as the revelations published by Wikileaks of secret offshore bank accounts in Panama operated by Moreno’s family members, known widely as the INA Papers scandal.
Repression intensifies against political foes
Yet this is only a part of a larger campaign of repression against free speech and persecution of political opponents that the Moreno government has been actively conducting in the past couple of years.
Ola Bini, the Swedish software developer, internet activist and a longtime advocate for internet privacy, was arrested and held in detention for almost 30 hours without a hearing on April 11 in Quito, Ecuador, for his alleged collaboration with Julian Assange and the attempts at illegal computer hacking. Once the hearing commenced, no official charges against Bini were presented, with the legal authorities instead asking for 90-day pre-trial detention.
Along with the absurd allegations that he collaborated together with yet-to-be-named “Russian hackers” inside the country, the only pieces of evidence presented against Bini has been his personal friendship with Assange, his visits to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and his support for Wikileaks’ exposure of war crimes and government corruption around the world.
The provincial court of Pichincha’s decision of May 2 to deny him an appeal and return him to El Inca Detention Centre was allegedly based on Bini’s possession of a number o books on privacy rights and hacktivism, as well the apparent fear that he would flee the country.
Bini himself, his parents, his legal team and a number of prominent political figures around the world consider him to be a political prisoner of the Moreno government – his persecution being politically motivated in order to further criminalise Julian Assange and silence any evidence of Moreno’s corrupt personal dealings.
In a letter published on May 6, Bini talks about his experience of living in the system of Ecuadorian penitentiary detention, describing it as a “maddening mixture of long stretches of isolation and boredom interspersed with random threats and acts of violence”. Yet despite his ordeal, he does not feel any grudge towards Ecuador or its people, insisting instead that he “has his life here and, if he was allowed to, he would continue to live it” there.
Moreno’s disregard for human rights and the freedom of speech and press have been further highlighted by the continuous campaign of censorship of radio stations, news portals and websites publishing information critical of the Moreno government, as well evidence of the INA Papers and the links between Moreno himself and the illegal funding received from the Chinese construction company, Sinodyro, and other sources.
Up to this point, Ecuadorenmediato, Ruta Kritica online journal, Radio Pichincha Universal, and Hechos Ecuador website have been either censored, experienced a large number of online attacks, had their broadcasting signal cut or have been forced off-air by the Ministry of Communications or the Moreno government’s supporters.
Furthermore, a number of journalists and communication experts appointed during former President Rafael Correa’s government – including Fernando Alvarado, Marco Antonio Bravo, Carlos Bravo, Patricio Pacheco, Carlos Ochoa and Richard Macias – have also suffered persecution and harassment by Moreno’s government.
Targeting leaders of the Citizens’ Revolution
Moreno’s regime is showing no signs of slowing down its continuous persecution of the historic leaders of the Citizens’ Revolution, with the pre-trial arrest warrant being issued by the Ecuador attorney general against Ricardo Patiño, the former minister of defence, economy and foreign relations, on charges of “inciting of violence” based on a speech he gave at an internal meeting of his political party in October 2018 in which he called for “combative resistance” involving “resistance” and the “seizing of public institutions” as the means of opposing the Moreno regime and its increasingly neoliberal policies and repression against dissenting political voices.
Patiño was among the most prominent of leaders in Correa’s government, playing a crucial role in the establishment of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), granting and organising the asylum for Julian Assange, as well as playing a leading role in the Citizens’ Revolution Movement (MRC) of groups and organisations opposing Moreno and his neoliberal turn. Patiño left the country on April 17 and is residing temporarily in Mexico, a country he has a long personal and political relationship with.
Finally, the political and psychological warfare waged against Rafael Correa and former Vice President Jorge Glas appears to be entering new stages of absurdity, as Moreno’s government feels more and more pressure from the fallout of the INA Papers scandal. In an attempt to further invalidate the legitimacy of Correa’s and Glas’s 2013-2017 term in office, Moreno’s government and the attorney general’s office have now begun producing claims and alleged testimonies that the construction company Odebrecht was involved in the illegal financing of the 2013 electoral campaign of Allianza Pais for the presidential and general elections that year.
Two more of Correa’s advisors from his time in office, “Pamela M” and “Laura T” were detained on May 5 after the discovery of emails and communications allegedly showing a transfer of up to $11.6 million from the Brazilian construction giants into the account of Allianza Pais political party during the period of 2013-2014, in a case that has now become known as “Arroz Verde”.
The most apparent evidence to refute these claims has been the complete lack of any previous testimony on the part of Conceição Santos, a key witness in the case against Jorge Glas, regarding any financial transfers to Allianza Pais during this time.
Even the time period of the alleged transfers does not appear to correspond to the electoral campaign period itself, as Correa and Glas were elected in February 2013 with an overwhelming majority of 57.17 per cent of the vote.
In the meantime, the attorney general is yet to take any concrete actions against the actual, existing and well-known corruption cases, such as the INA Papers. This further illustrates the cruel irony of “justice” under neoliberalism – the jailing of activists, journalists and progressive leaders, as the cover for an implementation of the policies of austerity, and a distraction for the corrupt personal dealings of the ruling political elite.
Denis Rogatyuk is a Russian-Australian freelance writer, journalist and researcher. His articles, interviews and analysis have been published in a variety of media sources around the world including Jacobin, Le Vent Se Léve, Sputnik, Green Left Weekly, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, Alborada and others. Follow him on Twitter @DenisRogatyuk. This article first appeared on The Grayzone and has been reprinted here with the permission of the author.