Like many of you when we woke up that morning to hear the news that Julian Assange had sought asylum in the Ecuador Embassy, we as a Latin America social forum, a coalition of Latin American Community Groups and solidarity activists from countries such as Chilli, Uraguay, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, we knew we had to respond immediately and there were two reasons for that.The first was that we have no doubt that Julian Assange’s life is in danger. We know that we can expect nothing of this current Australian Government to defend his rights. They were rushing over themselves to accuse him of being guilty. They didn’t know what he was guilty of, they just knew that he was already guilty. The Federal Police had to then tell them that he had actually committed no crime and yet the persecution of Julian Assange by the Australian Government continues.Julian knew that, and he knew he had to find asylum somewhere else. We are also absolutely 100% sure he will get no help from the US Government. As Latin American solidarity activists we know of the long history of attempts to silence, assassinate, kill individuals and entire peoples that have tried to rise up against US Imperialism, against the role of the US in Latin America. Military dictatorships that have come on the backs of ten of thousands of people being killed, all of them funded by the US, why on earth wouldn’t they want to get Assange?I think Rafael Correa in his interview with Julian Assange summed it up very nicely as to why the US hates Assange so much, ‘cause he raised an old story that has been mentioned by other Latin American Presidents and they have asked the question; well, why is it that a military coup has never happened in the US? The simple answer is that there is no US Embassy in Washington. When you reveal the truths of what the American Embassies are doing in Latin America and all over the world, you can rest assured that the US Government will come for you.
But we also knew, as well, that we have no faith in the Swedish Government to do anything and we have a very specific case study as to why we do not trust the Swedish Government in any way to protect the rights of Julian Assange and I tell a story of a journalist Jakim Paris Petera. He was a journalist in Columbia, lived in Columbia, and was an elected Councillor of the left wing group called the ‘Patriotic Union’.
Because of the threat this party represented, 4,000 of their members were killed. He went into exile. He picked Sweden as his country of exile. He has lived there for the last twenty years, he has his family there, he is a Swedish citizen. Today this journalist is in a Colombian gaol and the Swedish Government is doing nothing to protect this journalist, a journalist that had to flee from Columbia and is now facing supposed charges of terrorism. What is the Swedish Government doing for its own citizen, nothing.
What can we expect them to do for Julian Assange? Much less…and we also knew we had to respond not just to defend Assange but to defend Ecuador because we knew immediately as soon as he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy, that they would also use this to attack Ecuador as they have already been doing for a number of years, as so it began in the media.
The Ecuadorian Government, why in the world would Assange pick the Ecuadorian Government, which apparently, has one of the worst records in regards to freedom of speech? Well, we really know when the corporate media talks about of freedom of speech, what they’re really talking about is their ability to control what is able to be said and not heard.
The Ecuadorian Government is leading the way in breaking down this corporate power. When Correa came to power, six of the eight major newspapers were owned by banking corporations and as you can image there might be a slight conflict of interest that occurred when you both own a bank and a newspaper in the global economic crisis, but also a banking crisis that happened in Ecuador in the nineties.
What did the newspapers do then? They reported nothing about the banking crisis, they in fact signed a deal which is revealed by WikiLeaks, because of the US Embassy cables, where these banking corporations and newspapers sat down and said we will not report any of this, that way none of our interests are touched.
Well, the Ecuadorian Government and its people have drafted up a new constitution. In that new constitution if you are a banker you are no longer allowed to own any media outlets. That’s a pretty important start I think in breaking down the power of the corporate media.
But that wasn’t enough, because a few years later they held another referendum to further amend the constitution and now the constitution reads that anyone who is involved in the media industry are not allowed to have any other business interests anywhere else because once you do start to have other business interests (maybe someone like Gina Rinehart) this is obviously going to become an issue when you come to report on that.
So, I think there is a very clear reason why they want to get Assange, I think that’s the reason they are going to attack Ecuador, that’s why it is so important that we are here today to both support Assange but I do want people to also show support with the Ecuadorian Government. Let’s show them that millions of people around the world are willing to support them if they take the defiant stand of basically saying to the US, we don’t care, we are going to defend Assange, we’re going to give him asylum.
We know we need to do that, we need to continue to do that, but I think we need to do one more thing as well. We need to take the lessons of governments like Ecuador and others around the world and use that information that WikiLeaks has made available to us, to really begin to fight for real change, because that information is only powerful when people like ourselves take that into our hands and make use of that information in order to fight for a better world.
I think I would like to finish up by congratulating the organisers of today and congratulating everyone here and let’s hope that we can continue to build our campaign to defend Assange, to defend Ecuador! and to fight for a better world we all want to see.