Amidst new revelations of U.S. spying in Latin America and ongoing diplomatic tensions over the asylum efforts of Edward Snowden, Democracy Now! speaks with Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño.
"It's unfortunate that spying is so prevalent throughout the world," says Patiño through an English translator. "It's a massive violation of the right to privacy and to communication and freedom of expression and our conversations. The hidden microphone that we found in our embassy in London is certainly a grave occurrence, and we are requesting that the British government collaborate with us in the investigation of what information has been obtained with this hidden microphone."
Speaking from Quito, Patiño addresses the confusion over Ecuador's ties to Snowden's asylum bid after initially granting him a temporary travel document, but later calling the action a "mistake." On the asylum offers from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, he says: "We're very pleased that these countries have granted asylum to this person. We have not issued a statement with regard to the request of Snowden, but certainly we will study it."
Patiño also comments on the diplomatic fallout over the forced landing in Austria of a plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales following rumors that Snowden was on board. "In addition to global spying and all the violations to international law that this constitutes now, we see yet another grave violation," Patiño says. "And so, what we're seeing is a snowballing of violations of international law, and there has been no explanation of this violation. And the norms of international law are being completely discarded. Of course, Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also being violated. The citizens of the world have the right to enjoy freedom of expression and communication wherever they are in the world."
Patiño also gives an update on Ecuador's efforts to resolve the standoff over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains holed up in Ecuador's London embassy as the British government refuses to allow his departure to Ecuador after receiving political asylum.
"The issue is in the hands of the British government. Unfortunately, we have really taken on a role of advocates or lawyers and have provided extensive, substantiated arguments in favor of asylum being granted and respected. We've also had to provide the legal arguments that allow and, furthermore, force the British government to provide safe conduct to Julian Assange," Patiño says. "Does he think that Julian Assange will just grow old in our embassy? There are international conventions on asylum and the right of sovereign nations to grant asylum, so we've told the United Kingdom that it's a question of human rights and that persons have a right to request and receive asylum. And the British government needs to acknowledge that individuals have the right to request, receive and enjoy asylum. So, Julian Assange, by no means, is enjoying the right to asylum. He is suffering, and his rights are being violated daily. So this is a grave mistake and constitutes the violation of Julian Assange's human rights."