It looks like National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is heading to Ecuador to seek asylum from the United States.
If he goes to Ecuador, Snowden will join WikiLeaks refugee Julian Assange as a famous information leaker using the Ecuadorian government for legal protection.
Out of all possible countries, why has Ecuador become the go to spot for these men on run?
According to NPR, there are a few reasons.
One major reason is the country's president, Rafael Correa. Correa has been in power since 2007. The president and economist is part of a growing number of left-leaning South American leaders that are heavily critical of United States policies. He and Ecuador welcome the attention they receive by ruffling the United States' feathers.
From Correa’s perspective, what better way is there to point out the hypocrisy of his American critics than by drawing attention to a case that paints American policy in the same light?
This is Ecuador’s way of saying “thanks for all the criticism, but what about your NSA?”
Not only is Ecuador ideologically different than the United States, but they also do not depend on the United States in the same way as many nations do. Many countries out there would love to criticize the United States, but economic interest prevents them from doing so. Ecuador has some leverage.
Ecuador sits on oil. Lots of it. The country is one of the top importers of crude oil to the United States. The United States likes Ecuador’s oil, but they are not the countries only customers. China has invested huge amounts of money in Ecuador recently. If America tries to fight Ecuador’s policies through trade sanctions, Ecuador has plenty of other customers willing to pick up the financial slack.
Of course, it probably works out best for both the United States and Ecuador to keep doing business with each other. Forty two percent of Ecuadorian exports currently go the United States. But the message Ecuador is sending here is clear.
They do not like American policy, and thanks to Chinese investing and global oil demands, they do not need American money. This gives Ecuador the ability to speak out against America in ways that many countries cannot afford to, and they are taking full advantage of it.