The Chinese organ Xinhua reports that Ecuador might offer asylum to Edward Snowden.
"Ecuador would consider granting asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA employee who single- handedly disclosed the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)'s PRISM mass-surveillance program, a top Ecuadorian official said Monday," the outlet claims.
About two years ago, a senior Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official said that a certain Latin American country was becoming a veritable “United Nations” of organized criminal activity, attracting gangsters from such diverse and faraway places as Albania, China, Italy, and Ukraine. He was not talking about Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, or Brazil. No, Jay Bergman, the DEA’s Andean regional director, was describing Ecuador, a small nation of 15 million people that is tucked between two of the largest cocaine-producing countries on earth. “If I’m an Italian organized drug trafficker and I want to meet with my Colombian counterpart,” Bergman told Reuters, “I would probably prefer to meet in Ecuador than to meet in Colombia.”
Back in May, Ecuadorean voters approved a referendum that gave President Rafael Correa broader authority to regulate opposition journalists. At the time, Freedom House expressed concern that Correa was acquiring “undue influence over the country’s media,” and its senior program manager for Latin America, Viviana Giacaman, said that “Correa’s continuous demonization of independent media and the use of criminal defamation suits to silence journalists are having a chilling effect on the press in Ecuador.”
By endorsing the judicial and media “reforms” in this month’s constitutional referendum, Ecuador has moved a step closer to Venezuelan-style autocracy. President Rafael Correa, a Hugo Chávez disciple who has attacked opposition journalists, harassed private companies, and weakened democracy, will now have greater powers to regulate media content and punish reporters, judges, magistrates, and businessmen who disagree with his radical agenda. This represents a huge setback for those Ecuadoreans struggling to preserve the basic civil liberties that Americans take for granted.
In recent days, Chile and Mexico became the latest Latin American countries to reestablish formal diplomatic relations with Honduras, which (unfairly) became a pariah after the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya last summer.
Last week in Washington, the Organization of American States (OAS) held an election for secretary general. As expected, incumbent José Miguel Insulza won reelection to a second five-year term.
In past years, OAS elections have been full of pomp and circumstance, with presidents and foreign ministers from across the region in attendance. This year, however, not a single president made the trip. There were only two foreign ministers present, one of whom, Alfredo Moreno of Chile, was obliged to be there because Insulza is a Chilean.
Last week, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dennis Blair presented the “Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. While the report notes that Venezuela is “struggling” to deal with the post-2008 drop in oil prices and with production declines, it also outlines a variety of ways in which Hugo Chávez remains a very real threat to U.S. interests in Latin America and beyond.
Start with Iran. The mullahs have identified oil-rich Venezuela as a potential shield against the impact of international energy sanctions. Even if the U.S. and other Western powers further restricted Iran’s access to gasoline, Venezuela (and China) could help soften the blow. As U.S. policymakers evaluate the effectiveness of gasoline sanctions, they must remember that Tehran and Caracas have formed an increasingly close alliance. This past June, after Iran’s stolen election, while government thugs were murdering student demonstrators in the streets, Chávez congratulated Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his “very big and important victory.”