Most Ecuadorians beyond political and media circles
are nonplused: who is Julian Assange and what is WikiLeaks?
The man who sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, requested asylum, was granted it and put Ecuador at the centre of an international diplomatic storm is an unknown entity in this South American country of 15 million.
The tall, blond Australian is about as distant in terms of his appearance as he could be from Andean, tropical Ecuador. However, the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, founded by Assange, made headlines in Ecuador starting in 2010 as it did in most of the world.
Beyond Iraq- and Afghanistan-related documents, Ecuadorian media reported in early 2011 on 1,500 secret cables leaked by WikiLeaks with comments by the US Embassy in Quito on Ecuador's internal politics.
One of those documents, attributed to then-US ambassador Heather Hodges, said Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa had appointed the commander of the country's police for that job even though he knew that he had engaged in corruption. Correa reacted by expelling Hodges, and the United States did the same with the Ecuadorian ambassador.
A year ago, the pro-government daily El Telegrafo started to systematically publish WikiLeaks material, mainly cables that mentioned Correa's political opponents.
Then, Correa himself granted Assange an extensive interview that was broadcast on Russia Today. The two men never met, but Correa admitted that there was "empathy" between them.
Analyst Francisco Rocha noted that Assange's situation is of "no real interest" for most Ecuadorians. However, Rocha told dpa that Ecuadorian society "has always been in favour of human rights," and that as such it supports the actions of its government with the argument that Assange is at risk.
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