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Waiting for Snowden in Ecuador

The government in Quito is saying that Snowden's asylum request will be processed when he reaches Ecuadoran soil.
Last modified: 29 Jun 2013 23:01
US Vice President Joe Biden asked President Correa not to grant Snowden asylum in Ecuador [EPA]

Since last Monday we have been waiting for Edward Snowden in Quito. I rushed here thinking that the whistleblower was on his way. That of course didn't happen. And here we are six days later wondering if he will ever make it.

Earlier this week, the Hispanic TV station Univision released a document that showed that Ecuador had granted Snowden travel papers that would allow him to move after his passport was cancelled by the US.

The date on the document - printed on the official letterhead of the Ecuadorean embassy in London - is June 22. Ecuador denies that that was authorised by the government and said that whoever issued it did not have the authorisation to do so.

But Univision insists the document's existence is a clear sign that the government has changed its mind.

WikiLeaks' role

So what is going on? Why was Ecuador ready to grant Snowden asylum and now it seems the decision could take weeks?

Some suggest that Ecuador did not like the fact that WikiLeaks revealed that Ecuador had granted the document and that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, from the Ecuadoran embassy in London, could be trying to run the show.

In fact, some say the only person that should speak from the embassy should be an ambassador and not Assange.

According to Univision, during the week and while the world wondered what would happen to Snowden, there was a meeting at the US Embassy in Quito, where there were talks about the suspension of trade agreements between the US and Ecuador if this country went ahead and granted the whistleblower asylum.

Again, according to Univision, Correa gave the order to cancel Snowden's travel document and simultaneously the government announced it renounced the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act that reduces tariffs on some Ecuadoran products.

Instrument of blackmail

"To grant or deny asylum is an inherent right of a sovereign nation, furthermore, it's unacceptable to try to demonise a state for accepting an asylum request. Don't waste your time, Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone, nor does it sell its principles, nor its sovereignty. Nor does it submit to trade interests, no matter how important they are,” said Correa on Thursday.

He also added: "All of a sudden, trade tariffs became an instrument of blackmail; behave or leave the Free Trade movement. In the face of threats, insolence and arrogance of certain US sectors which have pressured to remove the preferential tariffs because of the Snowden case, Ecuador tells the world, we unilaterally and irrevocably renounce the preferential tariffs. Our dignity has no price."

The message was clear: Ecuador won't be pressured by the US on the Snowden issue. But behind the scenes it seems there is also a message to be read: Ecuador won't be utilised by WikiLeaks and Assange for that matter either.

The Ecuadoran government is now saying that Snowden's asylum request will be processed when he reaches Ecuadoran soil, something that seems pretty much impossible. He has no passport and, supposedly, has not been able to make it out of the airport.

This story is far from over, but it is certainly getting stranger by the minute.