22 May, 2012, 17:27
“When Correa took office, five out of seven privately-owned TV channels in Ecuador were run by bankers…”
Julian Assange talking with Ecuador President Raphael Correa
President Raphael Correa of Ecuador told Julian Assange that presidents have very little power to change things because the very concept of political leadership is being demonized.
“Can you envisage US independence without the great leaders behind it? Can you envisage the reconstruction of Europe after WWII without the great leaders behind it?” he said. “But in order to oppose these new changes brought about by strong and good leaders, they now denounce leadership as tyranny, populism, and evil.”
Correa explained that in Ecuador the government is not managing an established system, but changing one that was a “total failure” for centuries.
“Because of it, we have turned into a region with the biggest inequality in the world, a region riddled with poverty and misery, yet having all it takes to be the most prosperous in the universe,” he said. “And you need leadership, legitimate democratic power in order to change the governance structures and institutions in our country for the benefit of the majorities.”
‘I will never allow my country’s sovereignty to be affected’
Speaking about Ecuador’s relations with the United States, Correa says that the last thing he wants is to be seen as having an anti-American stance. He lived in the US for four years and graduated from an American college with a PhD in economics.
“However, I will always call a spade a spade,” he adds. “And if there are international US policies detrimental to our country, and to Latin America, I will denounce them strongly, and I will never allow my country’s sovereignty to be affected. “
For instance, when Correa took office he had to cut US funding of Ecuador’s police force.
“There were whole police units, key units, fully funded by the US embassy, whose officers in command were chosen by the US ambassador and paid by the US,” he said. “Those times will never come back.”
When asked by Assange why his government has closed the US army base in Manta, a smiling Correa said he’s all for giving the go-ahead to a new American base on Ecuadorian soil, “as long as we are granted permission to set up an Ecuadorian military base in Miami.”
‘It is time to get rid of false stereotypes!’
Correa told Julian Assange it is time to stop depicting governments as wicked entities which are always persecuting saint-like journalists and news outlets. He says the local media are just using the guise of journalism to meddle in politics and destabilize governments for fear of losing power. When Correa took office, five out of seven privately-owned TV channels in Ecuador were run by bankers.
“As you can imagine, if I wanted to take measures against banking in order to prevent, for instance, the crisis and the abuses which are now taking place in Europe, especially in Spain, I had to face a merciless TV campaign aimed at defending their owners’ interests,” he told Assange.
So much so that when WikiLeaks cables became available, Ecuador’s media chose not to publish them at all. Correa says this is because those cables affected the media themselves – “for instance, disputes amongst information and news groups”.
In the end, to avoid being discredited, “they reached an agreement not to air their dirty linen in public.”
In 2010 Correa was taken hostage in an attempted coup d’etat. After the attempt he launched a counter-offensive at Ecuador’s media, which he blames for the coup attempt.
His actions were dubbed a “crackdown on media freedom” and “elimination of opposition” by the Western press. Correa says while governments are trying to do something for the majority of the population, they are “persecuted by journalists who think that by having a pen and a microphone, they can direct their resentment” against the government. And often “they insult and slander out of sheer dislike.”
‘WikiLeaks made us stronger’
As for the government, Correa says it has nothing to hide and WikiLeaks has actually made the government stronger.
“The main accusations made by the American embassy were due to our excessive nationalism and defense of the sovereignty of the Ecuadorian Government,” he said. “Indeed, we are nationalists; indeed we do defend the sovereignty of our country. On the other hand, WikiLeaks wrote a lot about the goals that the national media pursue, about the power groups who seek help and report to foreign embassies.”
After the cables were released, Ecuador kicked out the US ambassador to the country. But not because of what was revealed in those cables, but due to ambassador’s lack of respect, and her bias towards the country.
“She was a woman totally against our government, a woman of extreme right-wing views who still lived in the Cold War of the 1960s,” he said. “The last straw was WikiLeaks, where she wrote that her own Ecuadorian contacts told her that the Chief of the National Police was corrupt, and that surely I had given him that post knowing he was corrupt so that I could control him.”
When she was called in to explain this, “with all her loftiness, insolence, hauteur, imperial airs she puts on, she said she had nothing to account for.”
“And as we here respect our country, we threw her out,” he concluded.
Correa says that, after almost a year of inquiry, Commander Hurtado – falsely accused by the ambassador, was found not guilty of all charges.
“This shows once again how ill-intentioned US officials, due to their ill will towards progressive governments seeking change, report on anything groundless, based purely on rumors and gossip provided by their contacts, who are usually people in opposition to our government,” he said.
‘We don’t work with devils’
Ecuador has been getting Chinese funding and attracting investment from Russia and Brazil. Assange wondered whether Correa’s government is “swapping one devil for another” in dealing with the Chinese?
“If anyone comes up to us as a devil, we simply tell him: no, thank you,” said Correa. “When 60 per cent of our trade and the bulk of the investment were concentrated in the US, and we were left with no money to move our economy forward, there wasn’t any issue. Now that we are the country where most of the Chinese investment in the region takes place, it has suddenly become an issue.”
Correa noted that even the US itself is being financed by China, “how wonderful it funds Ecuador!”