Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Taking Your Leak in Latin America

Now this could get interesting. Julian Assange, currently a long-term resident of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, tells Edward Snowden to go to Latin America:

"I would strongly advise him to go to Latin America," Assange told CNN's AC360 Monday night. "Latin America has shown in the past 10 years that it is really pushing forward in human rights. There's a long tradition of asylum."

Three points come to mind.

First, it doesn't seem that harboring Assange has hurt U.S.-Ecuadorian relations all that much. They were strained already, but after a Wikileaks controversy the two countries sent ambassadors and this was not affected by Assange. So taking Snowden is not automatically a huge risk. At the same time, I'm not sure what any given country would have to gain. Rafael Correa actually had a personal stake because some of the leaked cables were about him. Maybe Nicolás Maduro would want to champion someone criticizing the U.S. government, though at the moment he is trying to improve relations.

Second, the "pushing forward in human rights" is not so simple. There is progress in pursuing court cases for past abuses during military governments, but with regard to media freedom--obviously important to Assange--there is regression in some countries and the region as a whole is dangerous for journalists. As many people noted last year, despite Latin American governments voicing sympathy for him, they would not be so kind to one of their own citizens leaking classified information.

Third, he's right that there is a long tradition of asylum, and in fact I think that would make an interesting research project. During the Cold War, for example, Venezuela and Mexico were famously open to leftists being attacked in their own countries. In the late 1930s many Jewish refugees headed from Europe to Latin America. Less admirable was the flow of Nazis to Argentina, or ousted dictators trying to find somewhere to live (e.g. Somoza in Paraguay or Stroessner in Brazil).


Anonymous,  10:16 AM  

When I saw Assange say that I thought to myself, what happens when the government changes? Very few Latin American countries would make good destinations on a long term basis as the inevitable shift from one govt. to another might jeopardize their status. Consider Posada Carriles in Panama or ETA members in Nicaragua. Granted these are people accused of terrorism, but the idea that Latin American governments would provide asylum as a reason of state seems like a risky proposition.

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