Category Archives: Lenin Moreno

Assange’s Persecution Rides on Feeble Lies

Remember when it was obligatory to call Julian Assange paranoid?

That changed in March when the first of 18 US indictments confirmed designs to get him. All charges pertain to Wikileaks data that made him famous in 2010. Hard proof that hounding ensued from those initial releases accordingly forced the punditry to reconsider at least one of its armchair diagnoses of Assange.

Though most are unaware of the details, such hostile pursuit has concerned more than a few countries and institutions. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, recently stated that in “20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time.”

This follows upon the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s finding in 2015, reiterated in 2018, that Assange had been continuously arbitrarily detained in one from or another since 2010.

The official US reaction to Melzer’s report has naturally been to decry the content. It starts upon this with a certain fable of righteousness, which implies that a dog snarling into the hole of a rabbit does not confine it there:

Mr Assange voluntarily stayed in the embassy to avoid facing lawful criminal charges pending against him. As such his time in the embassy did not constitute confinement and was in no way arbitrary.

Like the term ‘confinement,’ the word ‘arbitrary’ is a weasel in this particular fable. It does not function in human rights law to imply any lack of rationale, but to identify the rationale of some authority as crucially unprincipled. Where such a fault applies it is likely to be ignored, misrepresented and/or distracted from by the culpable authority. Hence, as in the quote above, they tend to assert some righteous motive, real or fictional, as centrally vindicating.

It is common and wrong for those reprimanded to respond this way, since their place is to respect the findings of UN appointees and if necessary, reasonably correspond with them. The entire point of international law is that countries are legally held to account. In terms of the presently relevant human rights covenants, this involves a regime of independent assessment as to whether they are complying with the covenants they ratified. No brute enforcement applies here and the system should work perfectly well without it, if only the signatories abide by it in good faith.

In this primary and neglected context, the account that the US has given of itself has been a spectacular self-incrimination. The two sentences quoted above happen to assert the main premise of Assange and appointees from the UN who saw fit to defend him. For it is plainly implied in the quote that staying in the embassy was the logical means he appropriated to avoid negative repercussions intentionally prepared for him by the US in response his publishing.

The US is accordingly reduced to pretending that, as claimed above, the charges are internationally and nationally lawful. There is nothing to back this up other than legal paragraphs that have been long shunned, relentless obfuscation and a bully’s glare. The charges have been nigh universally denounced as an unprecedented threat to democracy which contradicts the letter and spirit of the US first amendment.

The response to Melzer from the US accordingly backfires and largely because its position from the outset has been foreign to reason. Its officials were obliged to reply to Melzer and apparently felt they managed to do this without committing to an abortive position. If so, they were deeply mistaken for reasons above, and also below.

The letter took exception to any notion that narratives about Assange, or indeed “commentary” in general, could be “cruel, inhuman or degrading…as defined by the Convention on Torture.”

Exclusion of the linguistic modes of relevant abuse is, however, clearly tendentious and searching the terms reveals that, contra the claim, they are nowhere defined or otherwise relevantly qualified in that convention.

This apparent chicanery culminates in the charge that, in virtue of finding fault with injurious disinformation, Melzer’s report has “dangerous implications for freedom of expression.” There is one clear sense in which that is true. An emerging sport of persecuting publishers could become endangered if human rights law had a chilling effect upon smearing them.

These positions taken by the US are in reaction to Melzer specifying concerted defamation as contributing to the debilitating and life-threatening persecution of Assange over a decade.

Without that malicious campaign, none of the gross injustice that he has endured, or which still looms, could have gained a foothold. Complicity of the press is therefore at the heart of this story.

Much has been said of the leading role taken by the Guardian here, but consider this deceptively bland token from the Washington Post which featured in its report on Melzer’s earlier statements:

Assange regularly complained about how Ecuador treated him while he took refuge in a corner room of its red-brick embassy. He unsuccessfully sued the Foreign Ministry last year over demands that he pay for his medical bills and clean up after his cat — among other conditions he said were intended to force him from the embassy. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also dismissed his complaints.

The first critical omission here is the reason his mentioned suit did not succeed. It was mindfully passed by an Ecuadorian judge into a fenced pit, previously known as Ecuador’s Constitutional Court. This had been shut down two months before Assange’s suit and was rebooted another three months later, with all-new, US-partial judges and a backlog of 13,000 cases.

So Assange’s team approached the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which did not dismiss his complaints, as misreported above by the Post. Rather, it admonished Ecuador not to violate his rights by breaking asylum law with an act of expulsion, as starkly threatened in its foisted “protocol.” The IACHR refused nothing to Assange besides precautionary measures to prevent this expulsion, which transpired a month later, to their natural embarrassment. These points only further establish Melzer’s finding of illegal abuse by Ecuador and decimate the tales from the Post.

Also unmentioned were Ecuador’s included prohibition on his free expression and a crackdown on privacy of his visitors. Instead, Assange was portrayed as whining about such things as medical bills and pet care. Yet Ecuador never paid a health bill for him and nobody ever thought to ask them to. Nor did Assange or his legal team ever protest any stipulation about his cat, except as a baseless insinuation of neglect on his part, which was strategic and virally effective.

Fidel Narvaez, consul at the embassy for the first six years of Assange’s stay, witnessed the beginning of his persecution under the new President Moreno. Narvaez describes Assange a friend whose relations with permanent staff were always respectful and abidingly positive. The media chorus that “he wore out his welcome” thus evinces horrendous incompetence or worse. He was unwelcome only to political enemies in Ecuador, and that from the day he sought asylum. Moreno revealed his position here by speaking of Assange as “stone in the shoe” and “inherited problem,” while former President Correa remains outspoken in defence of Assange and denounces Moreno for betraying his party and country upon taking power.

The informed side of this controversy is not the orthodox one and Melzer has called the bluff of a lie-infused Western establishment. Hence all that is required to win this debate is to force it. That is why he speaks up, with hard and documented facts, and why we must follow suit.

Life Or Death: Corporate Media or Honest Media?

Relying on the corporate media, including BBC News, to provide a reliable account of the world is literally a matter of life or death, on many levels.

Imagine, for example, a Russian dissident living in the UK who had published copious evidence of Russian war crimes, and who had then sought political asylum in an embassy in London. Imagine if that dissident were then expelled from the embassy, under pressure from Russia, immediately imprisoned in a high-security prison here and faced with the prospect of extradition to Russia to face life imprisonment or the death sentence. There would be a massive uproar in the Western media. Western political leaders would issue strong statements of disapproval and demand the freedom of a brave dissident. The case of Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, is much worse. He is being pursued relentlessly by a powerful country, the United States, of which he is not even a citizen.

US prosecutors are now reportedly helping themselves to Assange’s possessions, including medical records and two manuscripts. Baltasar Garzon, international legal co-ordinator for the defence of Assange and WikiLeaks, urged international bodies to intervene in what he called: “an unprecedented attack on the rights of the defence, freedom of expression and access to information.”

He added:

It is extremely worrying that Ecuador has proceeded with the search and seizure of property, documents, information and other material belonging to the defence of Julian Assange, which Ecuador arbitrarily confiscated, so that these can be handed over to the agent of political persecution against him, the United States.

The US is undoubtedly looking for evidence to build a bogus case against Assange to lock him away for life for alleged crimes against the world’s number one rogue state. As Noam Chomsky has long observed, the US behaves like the Mafia writ large. You go against their power at your peril.

The incentives for Ecuador, under a Washington-friendly government led by Lenín Moreno since 2017, to behave in this appalling manner are obvious. A report in The Canary spelled it out: “Ecuador is raking in new [trade] deals with the UK and US after handing over Julian Assange.”

In Sweden, surely under US pressure, prosecutors have now applied for a warrant for Assange’s arrest. Craig Murray provided the vital background to this latest disgraceful development, pointing to the: “incredible and open bias of the courts against Assange […] since day 1.”

The former British diplomat is clear about the crucial importance of the work of WikiLeaks and Assange:

Julian Assange revolutionised publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes.

Murray pointed out the contrast with the Panama Papers, detailing how the super-rich hide their money, covered by the Guardian and other ‘mainstream media’ outlets with great fanfare. However, contrary to media promises, such coverage:

only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM [“mainstream” media] intermediaries.

He continued:

Or compare Wikileaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to the Guardian and the Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.

John Pilger, a staunch defender of Assange and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, as all journalists should be, said via Twitter:

The filthy war on Julian #Assange and Chelsea Manning, whose heresy is to have revealed the crimes of great power, intensifies. Craven Sweden plays to its theatre of darkness while Assange the prisoner is denied even his glasses.

Manning is yet again back in prison, following a brief spell of freedom. She has steadfastly refused to testify to a secret grand jury in Virginia that is attempting to entrap her into revealing incriminating evidence about her past communications with WikiLeaks. The reluctance of corporate journalists, and even human rights groups, to support Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks is symptomatic of a broken political system still masquerading as ‘democracy’.

Missing Headlines on Douma

The freedom of the Western media, then, is a cruel deception. In reality, the corporate media has paved the way for war after war: Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen; and possible future wars in Venezuela and Iran. On and on it goes. Last week, a leaked document from the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), directly contradicted the concocted ‘consensus’ that Syrian President Assad’s forces dropped canisters containing poison gas from helicopters over Douma on April 7, 2018, killing dozens of civilians. The claim was crucial to the justification given by Western governments for launching air strikes on Syria one week later, relayed dutifully by the Guardian in its headline: “Syria: US, UK and France launch strikes in response to chemical attack.”

The leaked report was published by the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), a group of independent scholars and researchers, and signed by Ian Henderson, an engineering expert who, as independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone noted, has been listed in leadership positions on OPCW documents as far back as 1998 and as recently as 2018. The report concluded:

In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

WGSPM concluded in their analysis of the leaked engineering report that it is: “beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018 was staged.”

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gave his initial assessment of the leaked report and concurred that the alleged chemical attack was staged:

The OPCW engineering assessment unambiguously describes evidence collected by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) that indicates two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. The holes in the reinforced concrete roofs that were supposedly produced by high-speed impacts (impact at speeds of perhaps 100 m/s or more, 250 mph) of industrial chlorine canisters dropped from helicopters were instead created by earlier explosions of either artillery rockets or mortar shells. In one event a chlorine canister that was damaged on another occasion was placed on the roof with its head inserted into an existing crater hole, and in the other case a damaged chlorine cylinder was placed on a bed supposedly after it penetrated the building roof and bounced from its original trajectory into a bed. In both cases the damage to the chlorine cylinders was incompatible with the damage to the surroundings that was allegedly caused by the cylinder impacts.

Shockingly: “35 deaths that were originally attributed to these staged chlorine events cannot be explained and it cannot be ruled out that these people were murdered as part of the staging effort.”

Postol emphasised: “the voices that come through the engineering report are those of highly knowledgeable and sophisticated experts.”

But the dissenting engineering analysis was ‘entirely unmentioned in the report that went to the UN Security Council’. Postol concluded:

This omission is very serious, as the findings of that report are critical to the process of determining attribution. There is absolutely no reason to justify the omission of the engineering report in the OPCW account to the UN Security Council as its policy implications are of extreme importance.

Caitlin Johnstone commented:

This should be a major news headline all around the world, but of course it is not. As of this writing the mass media have remained deathly silent about the document despite its enormous relevance to an international headline story last year which occupied many days of air time. It not only debunks a major news story that had military consequences, it casts doubt on a most esteemed international independent investigative body and undermines the fundamental assumptions behind many years of western reporting in the area.

The OPCW confirmed that the document is genuine. However, rather than address the serious questions about its omission in its official report to the UN, the OPCW merely said that they would now be ‘conducting an internal investigation about the unauthorised release of the document in question.’ They added that they would not be commenting further ‘at this time’.

Journalist Peter Hitchens asked:

What is going on at the OPCW? It is a valuable organisation, containing many fine people, with a noble purpose, but has it been placed under pressure, or even hijacked, by political forces which seek a justification for military intervention in Syria? Given that a decision between war or peace, affecting the whole world, could one day hang on its judgements, I think the whole world is entitled to an inquiry into what is happening behind its closed doors.

Our searches of the ProQuest newspaper database confirm that there has not been a single mention of this devastating document in any ‘mainstream’ US or UK national newspaper except in an opinion column by Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday. It is truly remarkable, but predictable, that corporate media journalists have ignored an expert assessment that casts serious doubt on the official narrative on Douma and, therefore, the West’s ‘justification’ for bombing Syria.

There is no mention on the BBC News website of the leaked OPCW report. This is consistent with the ‘public’ broadcaster’s central role in maintaining and supporting the case for UK state policies. As Caitlin Johnstone astutely observed, the BBC’s preferred mode when it comes to foreign policy is fact-free war propaganda. Even when the press reported fresh US claims of a ‘possible Assad chemical attack in Syria’ – likely a propaganda effort intended to deflect attention from the leak – journalists managed to avoid mentioning the newly published OPCW report.

A news article in the small-circulation Morning Star is the only other exception to the craven silence in the national press. The overwhelming media acquiescence for Western foreign policy is surely a performance that the old Soviet press of Pravda, Izvestia, et al. could only have dreamt of.

Human Extinction

But the greatest calamity resulting from the myth of a free and fair media is the inexorable rush towards climate breakdown. In 1982, Exxon scientists predicted that atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide would reach 415 parts per million (ppm) by around this year; which is exactly what has happened. In pre-industrial times, the concentration was much lower; around 280 ppm. The last time it was this high was 2.5 to 5 million years ago, during the Pliocene epoch, well before modern humans evolved. Global sea level was 25m higher than now and global temperatures were 2-3 degrees Celsius higher.

As Kyla Mandel noted in an article for ThinkProgress:

Despite this knowledge, the company chose not to change or adapt its business model. Instead, it chose to invest heavily in disinformation campaigns that promoted climate science denial, failing to disclose its knowledge that the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must remain untapped in order to avert catastrophic climate change.

Over ten years ago, in January 2009, New Scientist reported that: “Billions could go hungry from global warming by 2100.”

As we have documented in media alerts and books since then, there has been warning after warning from reputable scientists, and things are worse now than they were in 2009. Governments have not merely ‘done nothing’; they have promoted and perpetuated corporate policies that are destroying the planet’s ecosystems and unleashing climate instability.

The World Health Organisation states that climate change is already leading to 150,000 deaths annually around the world. Researchers fear that the number may well double by 2030, even if serious emissions reductions begin today. Relevant factors include malnutrition, heat stress and increased incidence of diseases such as malaria. Death rates will likely worsen even further because of population displacement, reductions in labour productivity from farmers trying to work in hotter conditions, and disruptions to health services because of destructive weather and climate. Climate change could also force more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, increasing their vulnerability to ill health and disease.

The corporate disinformation campaign to block or slow action to tackle climate breakdown has therefore already led to huge numbers of people dying and suffering from illness. It will only get worse, potentially leading to a mass extinction of species, including humans.

When will senior BBC News editors and journalists, funded by the public licence fee, make the climate emergency central to their reporting? How long before economics and business correspondents notice the utter absurdity of ignoring climate breakdown in their reports, day after day? Last December, we asked BBC News business editor Simon Jack when he would address the climate crisis. He had never responded to us before. He replied this time: “Very soon.”

Over four months later, he published a piece on his blog titled, ‘UK’s biggest money manager warns on climate catastrophe’.

It began:

The world is facing a climate catastrophe and businesses around the world must address it urgently or face the ultimate sanction for a public company, shareholders who refuse to back them any more.

That is not a message from an environmental action group but from the largest money manager in the UK, Legal & General Investment Management, which manages £1 trillion worth of UK pension fund investments.

Its climate warning was the top of a list of concerns about the way companies are run.

A serious message indeed; surely there could be nothing more pressing. ‘Climate catastrophe’; ‘top of a list of concerns’, ‘ultimate sanction’. Would this mark a sea change in the business editor’s reporting? Seemingly not. Simon Jack’s reporting since then has been business as usual.

Our previous media alert highlighted the valiant campaigning and protests by Extinction Rebellion, and at least some degree of serious media coverage has been generated recently. But peaceful protests need to proliferate, intensify and seriously disrupt government policies and industry practices that are continuing to pump up dangerous global levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert, two well-respected writers on climate, believe that although ‘the political tide could be turning on climate change’, they are both deeply concerned that it is too little, too late.

McKibben, whose book The End of Nature was published thirty years ago, told journalist David Remnick in a New Yorker interview:

The argument about climate change was over by the early nineteen-nineties, when scientists had reached a very robust consensus. We’d won the argument. We were just losing the fight, because the fight was not about data and reason and evidence. It was about the thing that fights are always about: money and power.

Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction about the human-driven mass loss of species, warned in the same interview:

We have not yet experienced the full impact of the greenhouse gases we have already put up there. And once we do [in] a decade or so, there’s a sort of a long tail to that, we will have put up that much more. So we’re always chasing this problem […] Once we decide, “Oh, we really don’t like this climate,” you don’t get the old climate back for […] many, many, many generations. So we are fighting a very very, very uphill battle. […] maybe we can avoid the worst possible future. But I don’t think at this point we can avoid a lot, a lot, a lot of damage.

The outlook is so pessimistic that the best McKibben can hope for is that global warming is slowed down ‘to the point where it doesn’t make civilizations impossible.’ But it is ‘an open question’ as to whether even that is attainable.

McKibben added:

There are scientists who tell you we’re already past that point. The consensus, at least for the moment, is that we’ve got a narrow and closing window, but that if we move with everything we have, then, perhaps, we’ll be able to squeeze a fair amount of our legacy through it.

This is terrifying, and it should drive media coverage of the problem with huge urgency and scope. The real prospect that all of humanity’s achievements – in art, science, music, literature, philosophy – might be wiped out of existence, should compel dramatic action.

Journalist Jonathan Cook, freed from the need to kowtow to state or corporate interests in his reporting, states our predicament clearly and honestly:

‘Climate collapse is so close at hand, the window to avert our fate so narrow, that only the insane, the deeply propagandised and those so alienated from the natural world that they have lost all sense of themselves and what matters can still ignore the reality. We are teetering over the precipice.’

Now is the time, says Cook, for ‘genuine populism’: a widespread, grassroots struggle to overturn ‘turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism’, including the corporate media, before it destroys us all.

The Persecution of Julian Assange Proves that Western Values No Longer Exist

The Western world never ceases to speak of its “democratic values.” In Western political theory, the way democracy works is by free speech and a free press. By speaking out, citizens and media keep the government accountable.

This liberal tradition means that there are no words or terms that cannot be used because some designated “victim group” can claim to feel offended. The inroads into free speech made by political correctness, now institutionalized in universities and the public school system, in the presstitute media, in American corporations such as Google, and in the enculturated habits of Americans, demonstrate a decline in the status of free speech. Governments have also made inroads, with the “war on terror” becoming a justification for warrantless spying, mass surveillance, and a clampdown on dissent.

The free press has declined even more dramatically than free speech. The NY Times of the Pentagon Papers disappeared during George W. Bush’s first term when the newspaper sat on the story that the Bush regime was spying without warrants. The NY Times sat on the story for a year, allowing Bush to be reelected without controversy and allowing the government time to legalize the spying on an ex post facto basis.

Today the media are a propaganda ministry engaged in the demonization of Russia and Trump and justifying the war crimes of Washington and its vassal states.

This is why there is no media uproar over the 6-year incarceration of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Wikileaks is a news organization and has not done anything that a free press has not always done. Julian Assange is a citizen of Australia and Ecuador. He is not an American and thus cannot be guilty of treason. Yet Washington is believed to have used a grand jury to concoct such a case against him.

The new president of Ecuador is not the strong and good man than his predecessor was. Under Washington’s pressure Lenín Moreno is making life in the Ecuadorian embassy as unbearable as possible for Assange in an effort to force him out into British hands. Responding to Washington’s pressure, the British government will not honor his asylum, which prevents Assange from being able to leave the embassy.

There is no presence of “democratic values” in this affair. It is a repeat of the Soviet Union’s treatment of Cardinal Mindszenty, only it is Washington, not Moscow, who is stamping on the face of freedom.

The Australian government, also in deference to Washington, has done nothing to help Assange. Australia, like every other vassal state, puts Washington’s interest ahead of both law and the interest of citizens.

This week there were protests in Australia in support of Assange. However, Western governments are now so far removed from citizens who are today little more than subjects that it is unlikely that anything short of revolution can restore accountability to governments in the West.

“Western democracy” has become an oxymoron. This article by Mike Head shows the distain that the Western elites have for free speech, freedom of the press, truth, and the rights of citizens.

It’s Year Zero A.C. (After Correa)

On April 2 Ecuador will choose a new president. For the first time in a decade, Rafael Correa’s name will not be on the ballot. After ten years in office, Correa is stepping down from the presidency and, however temporarily, stepping away from politics.

The two candidates, Lenin Moreno and Guillermo Lasso, have radically different agendas. Moreno is Correa’s former vice president and designated successor. He would continue Correa’s center-left social programs for the poor and the infrastructure, despite the country’s ongoing economic crisis. Lasso, a banker, has pledged to reduce taxes, cut spending and return the country to its pre-Correa neo-liberal course.

Lasso and Moreno are the survivors of last month’s initial presidential election, which featured eight candidates from the far left to the far right. Ecuadorian law mandates that a candidate garner at least 40 percent of the vote and surpass his nearest opponent by at least 10 percent to win outright. After a tense three-day vote count Moreno was granted 39.36 percent of the votes, while Lasso took 28.09 percent. Both sides accused the other of fraud.

The choice, apparently clear-cut, is complicated by the personal nature of Ecuadorian politics. In this country of 16 million people, all politics is local. Above all, this presidential election is a referendum on the policies, personality and legacy of Rafael Correa.

It is hard to overestimate Correa’s initial achievements in office. Before his 2006 election, Ecuador had run through seven presidents in ten years. Three of them were forced out of office by angry protests. Political turbulence became the norm after the end of a military dictatorship in 1978 and the assassination of popular progressive President Jaime Roldos (apparently by the CIA) in 1981. In 2000, under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, Ecuador abandoned its own currency and adopted the U.S. dollar as legal tender.

Correa entered the Ecuadorian presidency in 2007 in a different world. Powered by huge oil reserves, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was riding high, steering a leftist populist course for his country in defiance of U.S. demands, inspired by longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, then still very much alive. Chavez traded oil to Cuba for medical help and literacy training for millions of Venezuelans and launched nationwide participatory democracy at the community level. Latin American governments in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Nicaragua and Bolivia joined this movement to one extent or another, as did Rafael Correa’s Ecuador.

Correa quickly re-directed Ecuador’s resources away from debt service toward poverty reduction, raising the minimum wage and increasing the standard of living. He oversaw the writing of a new constitution in 2008, granting rights to Mother Earth, among other pledges. Buoyed by the high price of oil, Ecuador’s leading commercial resource, Correa was able to launch large public works projects, building schools, hospitals, highways and bridges.

Wary of U.S. interference, Correa refused to sign a free trade agreement with the U.S. or renew the U.S. lease on a military base in Ecuador, which expired in 2009. In 2011 Correa expelled U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges after Wikileaks made public a diplomatic cable in which Hodges accused the national police force of widespread corruption, with Correa’s complicity. Correa later flouted U.S. pressure to prosecute Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, offering him asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy, where Assange remains, more than four years later. If elected president, Guillermo Lasso pledges to evict Assange within thirty days.

Thanks to his restoration of political stability and his many social programs, Correa was easily re-elected in 2009 and 2013. But even before the collapse of oil prices, the death of Chavez and the receding pink tide in various Latin American countries, problems arose with Correa’s style of governance.

Sensitive to the point of paranoia about any criticism of his policies, Correa quickly designated many media outlets in Ecuador as members of the “news mafia” and “enemies of the Citizen’s Revolution,” as he styled his agenda. He sued several newspapers for libel, earning rebukes from the Inter American Press Association and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

He commandeered radio, television and print media to propagate his unfiltered views. Every Saturday he spoke on current events for hours, in a populist, shoot-from-the-hip style, from different locations around the country, often berating critics by name, labeling them “terrorists” or “rock throwers” and causing some to fear for their safely. He revealed the identities of several social media critics, leading to their harassment.

In May 2015 Correa stopped his motorcade in downtown Quito when he saw a teenage boy giving him the finger. He confronted the boy, who was later sentenced to twenty hours of community service. Protesters who shouted insults at the Minister of the Interior were charged with “sabotage and terrorism.” Students who attended a protest rally were expelled from their highly-regarded public high school.

For many Ecuadorians now feeling “Correa fatigue,” it is this ranting, bullying, hectoring politician they no longer want to see or hear or hear about. Even comedian John Oliver ridiculed Correa’s overbearing authoritarian style:  Correa wore out his public welcome, especially after oil prices dropped dramatically, forcing the curtailment of government programs, the withdrawal of institutional support for schools and hospitals and the non-payment of many public employees.

Adding to Ecuador’s economic stress, a devastating earthquake in April, 2016, killed more than 700 people and caused more than $3 billion damage, forcing Correa to ask the IMF for help and his tapped-out treasury to impose new taxes on Ecuadorians.

But Correa’s consolidation of state power went far beyond his contentious rhetoric. Early in his presidential tenure, Correa’s Alianza Pais party gained a majority of seats in the National Assembly. Correa’s judicial appointments solidified his total control of government. His ministries issued top-down policy directives concocted by bureaucrats often ignorant of the disciplines – medicine, education, labor – they wanted to reform.

Indigenous groups who initially supported Correa turned against him when he appeared to betray his promise to honor their sacred lands. Correa welcomed Chinese investment to exploit Ecuador’s resources, sometimes in traditionally indigenous territories, leading to violent confrontation. At this moment about 8,000 Ecuadorian military troops, armed with tanks, helicopter gunships and other weaponry, occupy cloud forests on the eastern slopes of the Andes long inhabited by the Shuar people, in order to protect a mining operation.

In this rich, biodiverse ecosystem, the Chinese are building what will become the second-largest copper mine in the world, with estimated annual royalties of $1.2 billion for the Ecuadorian government. Mine construction will consume 41,769 hectares of rain forest and rural agricultural land traditionally belonging to the Shuar.

At this difficult economic moment for his country, with low oil prices, massive layoffs of public employees, armed confrontations with indigenous protestors and urgent reconstruction efforts needed for disaster recovery, Correa’s decision to withdraw from politics appears strategic. The next president of Ecuador will not have an easy time.

Right now the polls are mixed. Some show Lenin Moreno ahead; while others favor Guillermo Lasso. Moreno has pledged to continue support for his nation’s poorest people, while promising a less contentious, confrontational approach than that of his predecessor. Lasso’s entire platform is simply the negation of Correa’s policies. He has offered nothing else.

”I know how to listen. I’m reaching out to everyone,” is Moreno’s campaign mantra. He also acknowledges the need to “refresh the country’s international relations.” He may seek new alliances as the so-called pink tide ebbs around him. But Moreno cannot criticize his autocratic mentor too much. Correa still enjoys a respectable forty percent approval rating after an eventful decade in power.

Ecuadorian voters have tended to favor leftist governments over the past forty years. But many suffering “Correa fatigue” who want change, think Lasso would bring the most dramatic transformations. Of course, voting for unspecified “change” is not necessarily a winning strategy , as a stunned U.S. electorate, now dealing with the brash, muddled Trump administration, can attest.