Julian Assange must be getting pretty bored of being holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy by now. Before I went there a few years back, I honestly wouldn't have even known enough about the country to take cheap digs at its (lack of) culture. So, it wouldn't be surprising if the WikiLeaks tsar was thinking of making a break for it and stowing away on the next flight to Quito.
But if that were to happen, would the people of Ecuador's capital city throw Assange a massive welcoming party, or queue up at the airport to spit shit at him through their panpipes?
"Ecuador – home of free speech" (says a state-run newspaper)
It was with this poser in mind that I contacted my friend, Helen Rogers, who is currently increasing her lung capacity in Quito, the highest capital on the planet. I thought it would be interesting to see if Ecuadorians are any better than people over here at holding more than one concept in their head at the same time. Concepts like WikiLeaks being a good thing (except when they endanger their sources), rape being a completely terrible thing and the US almost certainly wanting to see Assange rotting in a dungeon – and not one with the bouji luxuries today's felons get, like sun lamps and an internet connection.
Helen kindly agreed to take some time out of sitting exams and applying to get her visa extended (good luck, Helen!) to ask the people of Quito whether they think they're protecting an alleged rapist from his accusers, or striking a blow for free speech against gringo imperialism.
Michelle Salinas, exams assistant.
VICE: Hi Michelle, what do you think is behind President Correa's decision to shelter Julian Assange?
Michelle: I think it's because he's really against the big governments and the USA, in particular. It's sort of a whim, and also one of Assange's cable leaks exposed the American ambassador for Ecuador accusing the police and government here of being really corrupt. Which is true, but of course it's not the sort of thing Correa wants to be hearing.
Do you agree with WikiLeaks and its aims?
Yes and no. It feels bad when someone interferes with your privacy. For example, that ambassador was just doing her job, so why did they have to interfere with her emails and make them public? He says that all he wants is for people to know the truth, but he shouldn't violate people's privacy. She got expelled for that.
So, do you reckon it was a good idea to offer Assange asylum?
To be honest, I think that Ecuador should have stayed on the periphery and not interfered, because now we are going to have a lot of economic and political problems. All the people who are against Correa in general agree with me. All the people who have been brainwashed to believe Correa is a champion of freedom of speech agree with him.
Rebeca Mero, cleaner.
What about you? Should you be sheltering Assange?
Rebeca: For me, the President has made an excellent decision, because in Ecuador we are a democracy and for that reason I support Correa.
Even if it gets Ecuador into trouble on the world stage?
We are Ecuadorian and therefore we are not afraid of other countries. What happened is that Julian Assange exposed a video of innocent people being murdered and the USA didn't like its dark side being brought to light. Now, it's behaving like a mafia who want to kill him to silence him.
Do you think most Ecuadorians agree with you?
The majority, yes. Doctors, lawyers and other people of that class are always against Correa, so they are the exception.
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