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The Socialist Who Gave Up Julian Assange and Renounced Socialism

May 29, 2019

For WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the morning of Thursday, April 11, arrived as most others had over the almost seven years he’d lived as a refugee in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Granted asylum there in 2012, he was hiding from British authorities for having jumped bail to avoid extradition to Sweden on rape allegations and to the U.S. for publishing secret government documents. Australian by birth, Assange had been granted Ecuadorian citizenship and was therefore officially an Ecuadorian sleeping on Ecuadorian soil. He was untouchable.

That morning, at 9:27 a.m., police entered the embassy and arrested him on the bail charge. The question most have asked since is whether Assange, viewed as either a free-speech icon or a Russian-sponsored nihilist, will be extradited first to Sweden or to the U.S., where he’s just been indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act. Less attention has been paid to the man who, half a world away, made the decision to expel him: Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno. As Assange spent his last night under Ecuadorian protection in London, Moreno in Quito recorded a speech throwing him out. “Ecuador is a generous country with open arms,” he began. But enough was enough. Assange had repeatedly violated international law. Ecuador could no longer offer him shelter. Later that day, Moreno called Assange a “spoiled brat” and a “miserable hacker.”...

Still, there’s a fair amount of optimism. Andrew Taunton, vice president for Ecuador Subsidiaries at Solgold, says newly identified copper deposits will go a long way in wiping out the country’s public debt. And Pablo Campana, a former tennis pro and entrepreneur who’s now Moreno’s foreign trade minister, says Ecuador’s 17 million inhabitants are at the threshold of a new era.

Moreno has committed to serving a single term, which adds to his credibility. Susan Segal, a former banker who’s president of Americas Society/Council of the Americas, which has sponsored two conferences in Ecuador in the past couple of years after staying away for eight, considers Moreno “incredibly thoughtful and pragmatic, and potentially transformational.” She draws a parallel with Chile, where Patricio Aylwin was a one-term president starting in 1990, following the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Aylwin restored key institutions, setting an impoverished country on the path to stable prosperity, she says...

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