Two days ago - that is to say, Thursday August 16, 2012 - I spoke in my News and Views from the Nefarium about the decision of the Ecuadorian government to grant celebrated (or depending on one's lights, infamous) Wikileaks founder Julian Assange political asylum in its embassy in London. In that talk, I suggested that the Ecuadorian government and foreign ministry had probably done a bit of shrewd geopolitical calculation, and that there was more behind its decision than meets the eye. I suggested that this geopolitical calculation included its own national sovereignty, for the British aide memoire presented formally to its London embassy and simultaneously to the Ecuadorian government in Quito was nothing less than a threat, not a veiled one either, that it would literally invade Ecuador's embassy and physically remove Mr. Assange by force if need be. This, I suggested, was one of the reasons that Ecuador took the decision to grant Mr. Assange asylum, namely, that it would not back down by a threat to its national sovereignty, and a crude threat at that. The United States, prior to Ecuador's announcement, also stepped into the threat game, and indicated Ecuador could face sanctions if it continued to harbor Mr. Assange, whom many American leaders have dubbed a "terrorist," in its embassy. Now I have no idea if Mr. Assange is a terrorist or not, but Ecaudor's decision again flies in the face of all geopolitical logic...
...until one examines the background. In Thursday's News and Views, I also implied that within Ecuador's geopolitical calculations, was the fact that London and Washington's heavy-handedness in the wake of 9/11 is increasingly alienating their traditional allies. THere was a time, of course, that such threats from London and Washington would have made any Latin American country, especially one as small and poor and weak as Ecuador, cave in almost immediately.
Not any longer. The reality is, Ecuador probably privately consulted with the Chinese and Russian embassies in Quito, to sound out the position of those two governments prior to making its decision on Assange. And as I suggested in Thursday's News and Views, should such sanctions be forthcoming from London and Washington, China and Russia will most likely step in to fill the trading void. In short, the West no longer possesses the big stick it once had vis-a-vis South America that it once did. Ecuador's decision thus probably foreshadows more geopolitical realignment, for it is doubtful that it would have taken such action without sounding out Moscow and Beijing, and we may also rest assured, Sao Paolo and Buenes Aires as well. Indeed, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, announced that Ecuador would present its case to the Organization of American States, that creation of American foreign policy.
But there is more lurking in the background that explains Ecuador's growing impatience with the West, for it has literally been raped by the financial powers of the West in general and of the United States in particular. If you're not familiar with this story, run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore or amazon, and get John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, a gruesome expose of the strategies and tactics pursued by the West to subject poor nations to the financial dictates of its bankster class, while raping nations of their resources and cruelly exploiting their peoples.
During the 1960s oil was discovered in the Ecuadorian region of the Amazon basin, and the rest - the IMF loans at outrageous interest, the payoffs to corrupt Ecuadorians, the callous disregard for indigenous Indian populations - all began. (For the story, see Perkins' book, pp. 165-170). One Ecuadorian university professor, however, courageously stood out against the corruption and exploitation of his country: Jaime Roldos. The rest, as they say, is history, and here is how Perkins relates it in his book(and now...for those of you who've been following all the dots in my books, some of these themes will now be clear). Once Perkins, who was then still an economic hit man, had come to Quito to "work his financial country-transforming magic", he had heard of Roldos. Here, it is best to let Perkins speak at length for himself:
"...I heard that (Roldos) accused the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), an evangelical missionary group from the United States, of sinister collusion with the oil companies. I was familiar with SIL missionaries from my Peace Corps days. The organization had entered Ecuador, as it had so many other countries, with the professed goal of studying, recording, and translating indigenous languages.
"SIL had been working extensively with the Huaorani tribe in the Amazon basin area, during the early years of oil exploration, when a disturbing pattern appeared to emerge. While it might have been a coincidence(and no link was ever proved), stories were told in many Amazonian communities that when seismologists reported to corporate headquarters that certain regions had characteristics indicating a high probability of oil beneath the surface, some SIL members went in and encouraged indigenous people to move from that land, onto missionary reservations; there they would receive free food, shelter, clothes, medical treatment, and missionary-style education. The condition was that, according to these stories, they had to dead their lands to the oil companies.
"Rumors abounded that SIL missionaries used an assortment of underhanded techniques to persuade the tribes to abandon their homes and move to the missions. A frequently repeated story was that they had donated food heavily laced with laxatives - then offered medicines to cure the diarrhea epidemic. Throughout Huaorani territory, SIL airdropped false-bottomed food baskets containing tiny radio transmitters; the rumor was that receivers at highly sophisticated communications stations, manned by U.S. military personnel at the army base in Shell, tuned in to these transmitters. Whenever a member of the tribe was bitten by a poisonous snake or became seriously ill, an SIL representative arrived with antivenom or the proper medicines - often in oil company helicopters.
"During the early days of oil exploration, five missionaries were found dead with Huaorani spears protruding from their bodies. Later, the Huaoranis claimed they did this to send a message to keep missionaries out. The message went unheeded. In fact, it ultimately had the opposite effect. Rachel Saint, the sister of one of the murdered men, toured the UNited STates, appearing on national television in order to raise money and support for SIL and the oil companies, who she claimed were helping the "savages" become civilized and educated.
"According to some sources, SIL received funding from the Rockefeller charities. Family scion John D. Rockefeller had founded Standard Oil - which later divested into the major, including Chevron, Exxon, and Mobil." (Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, pp. 166-167).
Needless to say, the Huaoranis lost their land, saw little benefit from the drilling, and, for that matter, neither did Ecuador. The result of all of this machination, over time, was to reduce Ecuador to poverty even more crushing than that the USA had ostensibly come to relieve. Perkins puts it with disconcerting clarity:
"In the years since I first went there, in 1968, this tiny country had evolved into the quintessential victim of the corporatocracy. My contemporaries and I, and our modern corporate equivalents, had managed to bring it to virtual bankruptcy. We loaned it billions of dollars so it could hire our engineering and construction firms to build projects that would help its richest families. As a result, in those three decades, the official poverty level grew from 50 to 70 percent, under- or unemployment increased from 15 to 70 percent, public debt increased from $240 million to $16 billion, and the share of national resources allocated to the poorest citizens declined from 20 percent to 6 percent. Today, Ecuador must devote nearly 50 percent of its national budget simply to paying off its debts - instead of to helping the millions of its citizens who are officially classified as dangerously impoverished.
"The situation in Ecuador clearly demonstrates that this was not the result of a conspiracy; it was a process that had occurred during both Democratic and Republican administrations, a process that had involved all the major multinational banks, many corporations, and foreign aid missions from a multitude of countries....
"During those three decades, thousands of men and women participated in bringing Ecuador to the tenuous position it found itself in at the beginning of the millennium."(Perkins, op. cit., pp. 239-240)
Well, I don't know about Mr. Perkins, but I find the collusion of "ministries", oil companies, banks, IMF, and the military to be the very definition of conspiracy, but more importantly, if you want to know why tiny little Ecuador has had it, and has openly defied both London and Washington over the Assange matter, then perhaps one need only look at the history of the West's dealings with the country and its people. The Western financial oligarchs have forgotten the basic lesson that Solzhenitsyn warned the apparatchiks of the Soviet Union about: when you take everything from a man and his family, so that they have nothing left to lose, then, they stand up to you.
Ecuador is standing up, and the guilt or innocence of Mr. Assange is, in the final analysis, no longer really the issue here... and we can bet, their own authoritarianism notwithstanding, that they're listening to Quito in Moscow and Beijing...and we can also bet that Moscow and Beijing will make Quito far better deals than the treatment they've had at the hands of the IMF and western oil companies. It will be subtle, at first...but it will grow. The West, and its power-mad oligarchs, had better start learning the lessons of basic humanity soon, because they are fast running out of friends.
See you on the flip side.