How Ecuador's shifting politics led to Julian Assange's arrest, and a snarky tweet from the ex-president
London -- The former President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, sharply criticized the country's current president on Thursday for stripping WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of asylum status and allowing him to be arrested by U.K. police. "The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenín Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange," Correa tweeted.
"Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget," the former leader said.
Assange had been living in Ecuador's embassy in London since he was granted asylum by Correa in 2012.
"Lenín Moreno was Correa's candidate," Richard Lapper, Associate Fellow at Chatham House's U.S. and the Americas Programme, told CBS News of the now-rivals. The left-wing leader was unable to run in Ecuador's 2017 elections because of the country's term limits, so he campaigned for Moreno, who was his one-time vice president.
"Correa expected Moreno to follow very similar policies to him. That hasn't happened. Lenín Moreno has pursued a more social democratic, more centrist political line," Lapper said.
As tensions grew in Ecuador between Correa and Moreno supporters over the shift, a large trove of hacked documents, dubbed the "INA Papers," was leaked on the internet. It included material belonging to Moreno which some people believe shows he profited from corrupt business dealings. WikiLeaks tweeted a link to the papers, but denied having anything to do with their publication, the Daily Beast reported.
On Thursday, Correa tweeted: "Julian Assange was expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy for exposing Pres. Lenin Moreno's corruption in the #INAPapers." His tweet included bank details that he alleged were a secret account used by Moreno for money laundering.
Earlier in the day, Moreno tweeted a video statement announcing that the country would be revoking Assange's asylum status.
"Ours is a government respectful of the principles of international law, and of the institution of the right of asylum. Granting or withdrawing asylum is a sovereign right of the Ecuadorian state, according to international law," Moreno said in the prerecorded message.
"Today, I announce that the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially, the transgression of international treaties have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable," he said.
"Ecuador is pursuing a more pro-Western foreign policy than it did under Correa," Lapper told CBS News. "They've sought to diversify their trade and investment relations, and so (that) entails being more pragmatic, basically, in their policies."
"I think there are very good reasons for Ecuador to pursue the kind of approach it's pursuing now, especially when you look over the border in Venezuela and see what an absolute humanitarian disaster 'Chavismo' has created there," explained Lapper. "Moreno, like some of the other governments in Latin America, is taking his distance from that."
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