Those with power often stand at the mercy of powerful information. Leaders sculpt the world with their actions, but mass media paints a portrait of their work for all to see. The freedom of the media to paint the portrait it sees in the world can be both toxic and beneficial to those in charge. Three cases of extradition reveal a triangle of powerful information and its powerful enemies.
Over the last few months, Ecuador has granted asylum to two oppenents of political hegemony. In July, President Rafael Correa accepted a request by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who is seeking refuge from allegations of sexual assault in Sweden. Assange fears that such an extradition would provide the US with an opportunity to seize and prosecute him for publicizing state secrets.
Later in August, an Ecuadorian court protected Aliaksandr Barankov, a Belarusian dissident from being extradited back to his home country, where President Alexander Lukashenko has dominated politics for the last 18 years. Barankov, a former police officer had fled the country after uncovering an oil smuggling ring led by top government officials.
Meanwhile, the US has granted political asylum to an Ecuadorian journalist convicted of libel against the country’s president. Columnist Emilio Palacio has been in the US for a year, escaping a three year sentence and a $40 million fine, for publishing an article that described President Correa as “the dictator” and accused the leftist leader of ordering soldiers to open fire on a hospital, during a brief coup attempt by members of the national police force.
These three extradition cases reflect foreign policy disputes. The small Andean nation of Ecuador is standing up for an opponent of US power in the world, while the US is protecting a dissenter to the Ecuadorian government. Though both these countries boast democratic values and a respect for human rights, they are more motivated by political priorities than humanitarian ones. The US protects press freedom when it serves to undermine an opponent, but curses international transparency when the release of state secrets threatens diplomatic objectives. Similarly, Ecuador praises the freedom of information when it damages the stature of a major world power and an oppressive regime, yet raises its own fist to squash dissent at home.
Despite rhetorical justifications, the powerful will always prioritize power over principles.
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America’s refusal to extradite Bolivia’s ex-president to face genocide charges
Another politically motivated extradition dispute from the Hemisphere
9 September, 2012
The view that [Ex-President] Sánchez de Lozada must be extradited from the US to stand trial is a political consensus in Bolivia, shared by the government and the main opposition party alike.
In October 2003, the intensely pro-US president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, sent his security forces to suppress growing popular protests against the government’s energy and globalization policies. Using high-powered rifles and machine guns, his military forces killed 67 men, women and children, and injured 400 more, almost all of whom were poor and from the nation’s indigenous Aymara communities.