A former ambassador for the government of Ecuador told the Agence France-Presse that his country may have cut off internet access to Wikileaks’s Julian Assange because they fear revenge from a potential Hillary Clinton presidency.
Speaking to AFP, former Ecuadorian ambassador to London Mauricio Gandara said that “of course” his former boss President Rafael Correa “is uncomfortable” about the fact that Assange, who lives in the Ecuadorian embassy of London as a political refugee, is posting the hacked emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta online. “The government is scared because it understands Clinton is probably going to win and could make them pay,” he argued. Correa has stated in the past that he would vote for Clinton over her rival Donald Trump if he were a U.S. citizen.
Assange’s organization tweeted earlier this week that Assange himself no longer has internet access at the embassy. It later accused U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry of intervening, allegedly telling Correa personally to disconnect Assange. The two leaders met in Cartagena, Colombia, in September during a ceremony to approve a peace deal between Bogotá and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist terrorist organization. The peace deal ultimately failed after being rejected by popular vote.
The State Department has flatly denied the claim that Kerry intervened in the matter, or that any State Department official reached out to Ecuador. “That’s just not true,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday.
On Wednesday, NBC News published a report alleging that Washington did engage Quito in possibly cutting Assange off from the internet. An unnamed “senior intelligence official” told NBC News that the U.S. gave Ecuador “a bit of an eviction notice” for Assange because he was cooperating with Russian government hackers. The officials speaking to NBC say that they do not believe Assange is participating in any of the hacking, but they do think he is aware of who is conducting the hacking and indifferent as to the potential that he is working with the Russian government. “The general view is he is a willing participant in the Russian scheme but not an active plotter in it,” an unnamed source says in the report.
The report also attempts to explain why Ecuador would listen to such a request from the United States, despite Correa being an extreme leftist anti-American leader: “A source familiar with the situation says the Ecuadoran government has been frustrated with Assange and his presence at the embassy in London for months and has been considering how best to proceed.”
The Ecuadorian government has also denied the claim that Kerry or anyone else had anything to do with their decision to cut Assange’s internet access. In a statement confirming that they had intentionally disconnected Assange’s internet access, the government explained that it had done so as a sign of respect for “the principle of nonintervention in the affairs of other countries,” as the leaks currently being released “interfere in the electoral processes” of the United States.
“This temporary restriction does not prevent the WikiLeaks organization from carrying out its journalistic activities,” the Foreign Ministry noted.