Just days into 2019, the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, who had originally granted Assange asylum in 2012, shared via Twitter a document showing that Ecuador’s current government, led by Lenín Moreno, was “auditing” Assange’s asylum as well as Assange’s Ecuadorian citizenship, which he had been granted in late 2017.
According to the document shared by Correa, the audit will examine the period from January 1, 2012, to September 20, 2018, and will “determine whether the procedures for granting asylum and naturalization to Julian Assange were carried out in accordance with national and international law.”
WikiLeaks subsequently shared Correa’s tweet and noted that this seemingly unusual reevaluation of Assange’s asylum was directly related to the Moreno administration’s efforts to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a total of $10 billion.
Per WikiLeaks, some of the conditions set for Ecuador’s receipt of the IMF loan included U.S. government demands of “handing over Assange and dropping environmental claims against Chevron” for the oil giant’s role in polluting Ecuador’s rainforest and poisoning many of its indigenous inhabitants.
Washington’s IMF leverage
For those who would argue that the U.S. could not set such conditions on a loan offered by an “independent” international financial institution, it is worth pointing out that the U.S. is the IMF’s largest shareholder — owning 17.46 percent of the institution – and also ponies up the largest quota for the institution’s maintenance, paying $164 billion in IMF financial commitments annually. In the past, the U.S. has used its privileged position as the institution’s largest funder to control IMF policy by threatening to withhold its IMF funding if the institution does not abide by Washington’s demands.
Furthermore, a leaked U.S. Army manual on “Unconventional Warfare” published by WikiLeaks in 2008 noted that the IMF was considered by the U.S. government to be a “financial weapon” to be used in “unconventional warfare” scenarios. As MintPress News recently noted, the manual states that the U.S.’ “persuasive influence” over the IMF can be used by the U.S. military to create “financial incentives or disincentives to persuade adversaries, allies and surrogates to modify their behavior at the theater strategic, operational, and tactical levels,” with such unconventional warfare campaigns highly coordinated with the State Department and the intelligence community.
It is also worth pointing out that Ecuador has been threatened with the financial might of the United States for much more minor issues than Assange’s status, despite its return to Washington’s “good graces” under Moreno’s leadership. For instance, last July, the U.S. threatened Ecuador with “punishing trade measures” if it introduced a measure at the UN that supported breastfeeding over infant formula — a stunning move that showed the international community the U.S.’ willingness to use “economic weapons,” even against allies. Ecuador, of course, immediately acquiesced under the threat of U.S. retribution.
Less than two weeks ago, on February 21, Ecuador signed a deal securing the controversial IMF loan for a total of $4.2 billion, in addition to another $6 billion from other U.S.-dominated financial institutions like the World Bank, for a total of $10.2 billion. If WikiLeaks’ early January warning is to be believed, it can be assumed that deal was secured by Ecuador offering the U.S. assurances that it would soon “hand over” Assange.
Moreno, since he signed on the IMF’s dotted line, has wasted no time in putting into practice the “structural adjustments” and other conditions required by the IMF for Ecuador’s receipt of the loan, including job cuts. In just three days, from February 28 to March 1, Moreno’s government fired nearly 10,000 public officials, according to Ecuadorian media. This is remarkable considering that the deal has not even been granted final approval by the IMF, demonstrating that Moreno is eager to show his willingness to enact the demands of the loan package.
Public ire over the mass firing has grown steadily in recent days, aggravated by the fact that Moreno was implicated in a major corruption scandal just two days before the IMF agreement was signed.
Furthermore, there are indications that Moreno’s government is preparing to drop charges against Chevron — one of the two U.S. government demands made to Ecuador in exchange for the IMF deal, with the other being Assange’s extradition. According to a report published on Wednesday by UPI, Moreno’s government is moving forward with a clean-up of the area that Chevron polluted. As UPI noted:
After 26 years of legal actions in Ecuador, the United States, Canada and Europe that failed to result in any significant cleanup effort of areas affected by crude oil spills, Ecuadorian authorities will start to clean up polluted areas to try to stop the damage.”
This is notable because, as UPI writes, “previously, authorities could not interfere with the spills because the pollution was used as evidence in lawsuits against Chevron.” Thus, the Moreno-led government’s move to clean up the area that had served as key evidence in past Chevron lawsuits suggests that they are preparing to drop their claims against Chevron.