Thursday, August 16, 2012

Will Rafael Correa affect ths US elections?

While some news outlets are concentrating on Miley Cyrus' hair, others are focusing on Ecuador's recent action granting political asylum to Julian Assange.

Assange is currently in Ecuador's embassy in the United Kingdom, trying to evade an extradition order to Sweden to face sex crime charges. (Does anyone else have the Eurythmics song in their head right now?) Assange's fear is that Sweden will then extradite him to the United States to face charges related to revealing secret U.S. government information.

This has now escalated into a squabble between four countries - Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Ecuador - with the possibility of other countries weighing in on the dispute.

And it also means that Rafael Correa's name is appearing in the news more often.

Correa is the President of Ecuador. Reuters has provided information on Correa's background. While he has had disputes with the press in his own country, Correa clearly positions himself as an opponent of the special interests - something that has resonated with Assange.

In terms of U.S. politics, the following observations stand out:

Correa is part of a bloc of leftist presidents in Latin America that includes Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. They are fervent critics of U.S. "imperialism" and have put in place policies to boost state revenue from their countries' natural resources.

Correa's relationship with Washington has been stormy. He expelled the U.S. ambassador in 2011 after U.S. diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks alleged that his government turned a blind eye on police corruption. In 2007, he refused to extend a lease letting the U.S. military use the Manta airbase for counter-narcotics flights, and in 2009 he expelled two U.S. Embassy officials in another case involving the police.

Correa is reportedly popular in Ecuador, and is expected to run for re-election in February 2013.

But what of the election in the United States?

It's quite possible that this may not become an issue at all, since both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney oppose the disclosure of government secrets. (It's Obama, after all, who has imprisoned Bradley Manning.)

But it's possible that Romney could accuse Obama of causing the stalemate, or that Obama could accuse Bush of causing the stalemate, or that Biden will say something stupid (actually, that's not possible - that's probable).

And this could backfire for Correa. While Correa is obviously taking actions that are popular with his electorate, he has now given the United States one more reason to be displeased with him - and when the United States looks at another country, it looks at it with its own interests in mind. I can cite myself as an example - of all of the ramifications of the Assange standoff, I immediately focused on the "what does this mean for the U.S.?" angle.

Well, let's give the Tea Party and the Occupy folks something to talk about.
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