Ecuador calls Congressional Snowden threats blackmail, backs out of US trade agreement

After US powerful US members of Congress started to threaten Ecuador with trade sanctions should it offer asylum to the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Ecuador pre-emptively canceled its trade agreement with the US, backing out of the Andean Trade Preference Act. They called the US threats blackmail. ""Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone, nor does it trade with principles or submit them to mercantile interests, however important those may be." -Fernando Alvarado, communications secretary, government of Ecuador.


  1. The irony is  that Assange & Snowden are being used to give the impression that Ecuador is a paladin of free press & freedom of expression, when nothing could be further from the truth.

    Correa keeps the newspapers in his country on a tight leash, following the example of his mentor Hugo Chávez.

    1.  Who is giving that impression? Where are they doing it?

      I see this trotted out a lot but I don’t see anyone doing it.

      I do see a lot of whinging about Snowden and Assange going to “our enemies” without a lot of realization that if they went to “our friends,” these friends would just hand them over to the U.S. By definition, they have to go to places without extradition agreements with the US.

        1.  I’m not sure what point you are making? No one is proclaiming that the countries he winds up in our free and open utopias without civil rights problems. The point is that he has no choice but to go to nations that have problematic relations with the US. If he went to the UK, they’d just hand him over.

          1.  It’s ironic he sought the help of another powerful country that might be willing to stand up to the powerful country he was wanted by?

            I know, if he wasn’t such a hypocrite he would have sought refuge in Andorra.

          2. @albill:disqus : Seriously though, where would you suggest that he go then?

            [sound of crickets]

          3. I think what you mean is that it’s ironic that the democratic countries we hold up as the paragons of freedom and human dignity are acting against that goal and either aggressively trying to punish anybody who dares reveal that, or willingly assisting those who are.

            Snowden seeking help where ever he can get it isn’t ironic, it’s just pragmatic.  He is not a super-power with a huge number of other, non-ironic alternatives to the actions that are seemingly incongruous with his ideals.    

          4. No it’s not. What’s ironic is that it was necessary for a United States citizen to seek refuge from his own government with oppressive regimes.

          5. There are more people in prison in the U.S. than everywhere else but China per capita.

          6. The UK hand anyone over to anyone. To the US because Bush’s poodle Blair signed us up to a ludicrously one sided extradition treaty, and because no one in government & civil service can keep a stiff upper lip anymore, much less remember where their spine is.

            And to Europe because of the misguided European Arrest Warrant. Which was  *supposed* to be for terrorists, but now seems to apply to every alleged crime.

            So in essence I’m furiously agreeing with you.

          7. Despite being a vile, corrupt colonial regime, the government in  Victorian and Edwardian Britain did offer safe haven to revolutionaries and anarchists from all over Europe. The current crop would hand Marx and Engles over to the German government for imprisonment. Of course, they may have given them safe haven in a short sighted attempt to undermine their enemies among the Central Powers.

          8. It would have been a risk but I really wish Snowden would have sought refuge in Canada (British Columbia in particular).  Yes PM Harper would want to hand him back, but I believe the citizenry would object.  Certainly he would have received a long and thoughtful hearing.

          9. Ah yes, Canada. Where the G20 protests have proven a resounding success, right? You have far more faith in the  political pull of our fellow citizenry than I do.

        2. Did he actually go to Russia?  I was starting to get the impression that Putin was just trolling the Media by saying that he was there once a gaggle of reporters were unable to find their man after days of searching a relatively small area.

        3. The difference is that the Pussy Riot girls DID break local Russian law. They were Russian citizens, on Russian soil, breaking Russian laws. I note that almost any protest on any federal land in the US these days is met with police violence, Tasers and drawn guns. One things common to all governments is that they absolutely detest their own people expressing themselves.

      1. Let’s face it, if Snowden had gone to one of the paragons of Democracy in Europe, he’d probably find himself on a plane to the US in short order, asylum claim or not.  

        Don’t forget how many of these countries were involved in illegal renditions. FFS, Sweden did it. Sweden!

        So, coming back to realpolitik: the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Subject to terms and conditions, YMMV, E&OE.

        1. I’m not so sure. He’s got a very strong case for asylum, and Netherland has given an American asylum before (and the US was angry about it then as well).

    2. I’m quoting myself:

      There are slander lawsuits in Ecuador against journalists but thats nothing compared to the situation in the US where the freedom of press is in jeopardy by surveillance (AP phone records seized) or journalists getting threatened with treason charges.Ecuador has no death penalty, no torture camps, no mass surveillance of their own citizens, no secret courts, doesn’t kill it’s own citizens with drone strikes …. –  it seems Ecuador has a better civil rights/freedom record than the US.


            “The libel case was brought by Correa last year after a column in the
            opposition publication questioned the events of a 2010 police protest
            that turned deadly, and that Correa has called a coup attempt.
            attempting to address police protesting regarding pay issues, took
            refuge in a hospital and was finally rescued by the army. The newspaper,
            however, questioned the events of the army rescue, saying the president
            ordered authorities to fire on the hospital where there were civilians.
            author of the story, Emilio Palacio, along with the owners of the
            newspaper, were handed three years in jail.  The paper faces an
            additional $40 million in fines.”

          2. This quote tells us nothing.  The story was manufactured by Correa’s enemies, who are numerous amongst Ecuador’s former “elites”.  And is one prosecution all you have?  That’s the big bad Ecuadorian free-press destroying juggernaut?  You are imbibing way too much US propaganda.  Take a break.

        1. Libel/defamation suits are not uncommon in western nations (Austria, France, Italy, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden etc.) with functioning democratic systems and a good human right record. The reasoning is that your rights end where others are harmed. 
          Do you want to tell us that the specific US tradition regarding freedom of expression is the ONLY valid one? Those other democratic nations probably don’t count – the US is the only true paragon of freedom, right?


            Libel/defamation suits are not uncommon in western nations (Austria, France, Italy, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden etc.)

            You’re right. What is uncommon –and dangerous– is whenever the head of State in a democratic nation decides to make use of his power to incarcerate journalists, and send newspapers to bankruptcy.

            BTW I happen to be Mexican ;)

          2. Apparently he didn’t use some sort of special powers to punish the newspapers instead he did what everyone could do if he is slandered  – he sued the journalists.

          3. You’d have to understand what is going on in Ecuador to understand this story with anything other than knee-jerk responses.  And being Mexican, I’d think you would be more concerned with the fact that the last election in your own country was corrupted by the US government to install a US puppet. 

        2. Correa sued a newspaper for libel. You don’t see that as abuse of power?

          Let me introduce you to the Fallacy Of Extension:

          Of course it is an abuse of power.  But that doesn’t detract from the point @boingboing-5d1ddc93ed371516275ea6f4e99802f9:disqus made about how they have no death penalty, no torture camps, no mass surveillance of their own citizens, no secret courts and they don’t kill their own citizens with drone strikes like the USA does.

          1. Your link doesn’t work.

            Edit: There is goes… works now and read it.


            There’s no mention of “torture camps” anywhere…

            USA has them. Along with a solid track record of oppressing dissenters with raids, torture and murder.

            You’re not really helping to back up your argument here…

          2.  It can only be seen as an abuse of power if what they were saying was true. And those are serious allegations.

          3. Exactly.  They need such laws in Ecuador to stop the neoliberal cabal from taking the country back and turning it into what it was before:  a nation of one small,  all-powerful elite and poverty slums for everyone else.

        3.  No. I would like to see our presidents able to do the same when papers willfully publish things that aren’t true. Would be a great way to undo some of the damage done by them.

          1.  I don’t think that’s a good idea. This whole discussion is about abuse of power after all. Imagine if Nixon had had the power to sue & incarcerate the journalists who uncovered Watergate.

          2. Well… “Nixon and top administration officials discussed using government agencies to “get” what they perceived as hostile media organizations.[15] The discussions had precedent. At the request of Nixon’s White House in 1969, the FBI tapped the phones of five reporters. In 1971, the White House requested an audit of the tax return of the editor of Newsday, after he wrote a series of articles about the financial dealings of a friend of the President’s.” (from Wikipedia)

          3. Watergate was true. Your argument would make more sense if it was proven to be false.

      1.  Yep, Correa is about to get “Chavez-ed” by the media and usual neoliberal suspects.

        1.  Exactly.  Countdown to Correa being called a ‘strongman’….  Never mind that he was elected with a majority (over 57%) of votes, has reduced poverty and made some significant changes for the better.

          Of course, he did default on the debts incurred by previous governments (mostly dictators, mostly buying arms).  And it was the right thing to do, though that is not a popular view with our global elites.

          He is not popular with the small percentage of Ecuadorians who used to run the country and still own a lot of it – including much of the press.

          But most of that won’t come out over the next while.

        2.  I already read one ‘our enemies’ in the BB comments section.  Who the fuck knew that Ecuador was our enemy?  Who can even keep up? Ever since Freedom Fries people are just cutting countries off the Christmas card list left and right.

    3. That is hogwash.  Yes, Ecuador has a criminal law for publishing egregious lies.  Yes, it used it ONCE because a newspaper, owned by political enemies of the socialist government there (wealthy interests), printed specious lies of government murder.  The fact is that Ecuador’s socialist experiment is under constant threat from powerful forces in and outside of Ecuador.  The law was needed to stop the vicious lies and undermining of their political project.  Until recently Ecuador was a neoliberal nightmare.  Oh, and the UK has pretty harsh laws for printing lies as “news”.  I often wish the US had something similar.  It would put Fox “news” out of business (they were put out of business in the UK for their lies).  Where is Human Rights Watch on the UK’s “draconian” press laws?  Don’t believe everything you hear about our neighbors to the south.  The fact is that parts of Central and South America have finally broken free of the neoliberal US yoke, and there are very wealthy, powerful interests who don’t like that fact, and will twist our perceptions anyway they see fit in order to undermine those states (Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador…).  

    4.  I have heard this before.  I have also heard that the journalists in question were making libelous claims against members of the government.  Like, seriously, libelous claims like Fox News does.  Stuff like the President is a Terrorist and shit like that.  To go after them is not a horrible thing.  You should be free to report, but you should not be free to impugn.

      1. Yes.   They claimed the president ordered the police to open fire on a crowd of civilians.  It was a lie.

    5.  Frankly, I’m less interested in lionizing or demonizing Ecuador & Russia & more interested in the fact that uh, America isn’t a paladin of free press & freedom of expression?  That latter part, the part about America, is the part that sticks in my craw.

    6. Working our way backwards: The oligarchical media in Venezuela were kept on a tight leash as they participated in a coup against Chavez in 2002. In most countries, they would have been justifiably tried for treason, but the Chavistas gave them a slap on the wrist. Ironically, US gov and media are incensed over the tyrannical wrist slapping, ie. not renewing one part of a broadcasting license in response to treason. 

      Correa keeps the newspapers in his country on a tight leash because they too are owned by the oligarchy he replaced – but you are right – they do not exemplify a free press or freedom of expression. 

      Assange & Snowden are being used to focus the issue on personality, in order to avoid talking about issues: Wikileaks, journalism, corruption, war crimes, the NSA, and a system of surveillance more totalitarian than the worst tyrants in history could even imagine. 

      Ecuador is not cool for taking in Assange & Snowden, they are cool because they have principles like, one “does not accept pressure or threats from anyone, nor does it trade with principles or submit them to mercantile interests, however important those may be.” I wish Canada or the UK could say the same.

      1. The oligarchical media in Venezuela were kept on a tight leash as they participated in a coup against Chavez in 2002.

        That’s funny, because Chavez actually staged a coup before he got into power. So can we stop pretending that he was principled?

        1. That’s a false equivalency. Nelson Mandela was a terrorist. We allow people to do things in the name of social justice that we would not accept if the goals are narrow self interest of oneself or a tiny class of people oppressing the majority. I am merely countering the false claims of US media in the information war on Venezuela: the government inhibits a free press. Considering the historical context, that is an absurd lie.  

          1. Nelson Mandela was involved in the overthrow of a violent, white minority government in a black majority country. That government was almost universally condemned. That’s a silly false equivalency.

          2. Chavistas overthrew rich minority government in a 80% peasant majority country. The Chavez government is almost universally accepted as legitimate, democratic, populist and good. It’s not a brilliant comparison with S.A., but the emphasis was on the “terrorist” denomination and the idea of “social justice,” ie. one coup is not equivalent to another coup. The American Revolution is not equivalent to Bush vs. Gore. Why don’t we have a beer and go watch Scahill’s Dirty Wars together? Then you tell me what you think, I’ll shut up and listen :-)

  2. Why is the news media so obsessed with Snowden?  Shouldn’t we be more concerned with the NSA spying on us, not who the whistleblower is?

    1. I’d guess because it’s a thrilling spy caper!

      Without the guns, stunts, or infiltrations. It’s just a guy trying to fly around the world. 

    2. Good point. I’m supefied at the total lack of reaction from you Americans. Oh wait, you’re all watching the crap on TV…

    3. Better to have 100 Snowden stories and 20 spin-off government-spying stories than no Snowden stories and 1 spying story that nobody reads.

      The Snowden soap opera is getting far more people genuinely reading and learning about government spying than any 10 previous whistleblowers. As long as his story is on the front page, the NSA will be in a sidebar. This is a good thing.

      1.  Except the NSA should be on the front page, repeatedly and until they reverse their course of treating their public like the enemy.

        Of course, no matter what happens in the US I’ll be surveilled, since I am a ‘foreigner’.  In some ways I’d rather they spend their energy reading all your emails and chasing their own tails, and leave the rest of us alone.

    4. Why is the news media so obsessed with Snowden?

      Distraction.  Plus, you have to admit many want him captured and many want him to escape the clutches of The Empire and are anxious to see what happens next.

      Because of this, I can’t say I blame the media for focusing so much attention on him.  Of course, I do also blame them for trying to ignore the content of the leaks, but that’s par for the course for them.

  3. @albill:disqus

    >Seriously though, where would you suggest that he go then?

    Good question.

    I dunno. To the United States? Srsly, why should Manning be the only one expected to suffer on an American prison? If the guy feels he did the right thing, then he should be willing to face the consequences of his actions –and I think there should be consequences, even if he did the right thing.

    If Snowden & Assange keep running forever, then the closure of these delicate issues will take longer.

    1. Huh, so he can be swept under the rug like Manning?  Staying on the run keeps people talking about him, and sometimes people in the media slip up and talk about what he released and maybe get people thinking about it. 

        1. He’s conceding that he did something the authorities didn’t like.  He’s not saying he thinks it was wrong though.

          Morally/Ethically Wrong and Against the Law are not necessarily the same thing. 

        2. Yes if you have faith that people will try to uphold justice, no otherwise. Snowden doesn’t, and anyone who has been paying attention to the attacks on whistleblowers can see he’s right.

          1. If he didn’t have such hopes, then… why did he do it in the 1st place?

            Personally I think he wanted to effect a change by alerting the public of these programs. Now it’s up to the American public to demand to their government that he be given some sort of immunity.

        3. If the system was fair, transparent, and the consequences not terrifying I imagine a lot more whistle blowers would come forward and work within the legal framework. By the way, water’s wet.

        4. Don’t you think staying on the run is silently conceding you did something wrong though?

          With that logic, if someone pulls a gun and you run…  It’s you who should be arrested for running away.

          1. A conundrum which is played out on every single episode of COPS.

            Not to mention yelling, “Stop resisting!” while beating unconscious or dead suspects with batons. Oh, I forgot. They edit that out, don’t they?

        5. Yep, those Jews on the run from Hitler just KNEW they had been very naughty.  (Yes, I went straight to the Hitler argument – sorry).

    2. If the guy feels he did the right thing, then he should be willing to face the consequences of his actions.

      So he should have submit to the system even though it’s thoroughly corrupt and has a track record of savaging whistle blowers? Un, no.

        1. It’s not relevant to this. Never mind that Snowden is taking great risk to himself and loved ones, especially considering he seems to have had a pretty cushy life.

    3. He should be willing to face due process.  Why should he return to a country that has clearly demonstrated that it’s uninterested in due process?

    4. Considering the treatment of Manning, I fully support Snowden’s attempt to stay away from there.

      Being imprisoned for doing the right thing sounds noble and all, but there’s no justice to be had by surrendering to a country that knows no justice. And you’re more easily silenced there.

    5. You’ve done an extremely effective job of demonstrating your lickspittle bona fides, but so far absolutely none of what you have said makes any sense in the context of Edward Snowden and the NSA.  

      The US has created a security state in which there is no legal path for whistleblowers to reveal abuse and lawbreaking, so Snowden had no choice but to flee.  The video of the helicopter gunship attack on a group of unarmed civilians in Iraq was incontrovertible evidence of war crimes, and yet Bradley Manning is the only person who’s facing justice for its release.  The truth in the US is that the war machine runs the show, and everything else is just Kabuki theater designed to placate the proles.  That he’s chosen to seek asylum in Ecuador says more about which of these two countries is truly free and which is the oppressive tyrannical state.

      And while you may be Mexican, something tells me you’re not the type of Mexican we’d expect to see sneaking across the Rio Grande.  You’re more the type who would be insulted that a restaurant wouldn’t give you the table you wanted so you’d use your political clout to have the health inspectors who work for your father close them down.

  4. Americans always think every other nation should be just like America. I don’t know much about Ecuador but if they’re willing to stand up for Assange and Snowden in the face of intense pressure from the West and also boldly reject the US in the face of bullying, I’d say they sound like a principled nation that maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

    1.  My brother-in-law was born in Ecuador & has family there. Speaking with him about the state of his mother nation has given me a less-than-rosy image of Correa.

      1. I’m sure one’s opinion on Correa varies greatly by how much money one comes home with at the end of the day.

        1. That basic idea probably appleis almost everywhere. I’m absolutely positive there are /plenty/ of people whose opinions of either Putin, Berlesconi, Bush The Younger, or Thatcher as their leader could be closely correlated with how much money they bring home.

          1. No, most people have ethics, and don’t sell out their principles for money.  I know that’s a quaint notion amongst certain classes these days but its still true.  In fact, I think one of the biggest points about this story is how Correa refused to put mercantilist interests above principle.  I’m sure the power-brokers in DC thought they could muscle him around with economic threats.  But not everyone marches to that particular drumbeat.

      2. I live in Ecuador , though not born here. All the people I’ve spoken to think he’s doing a fantastic job of modernising the country, – building roads, hospitals, training doctors and teachers. 
        All these people claiming that Ecuador has is an authoritarian hell hole pull out one incident –  which was not Correa using his immense power to lock up innocent journalists (what the U.S government is moving towards doing) – but a judgement by the courts that a crime had been committed.  And then Correa had him pardoned!
        I only wish the politicians back home were half as principled, can’t imagine ANY Australian pollie turning their back on filthy lucre over a moral issue :(

        1. You mean Correa pardoned the guy who slandered him? That’s impressive leadership. I like him more and more.

      3. And yet he was recently reelected with a significant majority (much higher than any US president gets).  The fact that you read BoingBoing and write English so well, and are Mexican as you stated above, makes me think you are from a wealthy background, and that your brother in law is also.  The wealthy interests in Ecuador HATE Correa because he is working to reduce income inequality, poverty, malnutrition and ignorance.  I always marvel at the viciousness of the upper classes.  They do truly feel superior and justified in spreading death, starvation and misery, despite all the evidence that the vast majority of brilliant, creative individuals arise from the more “humble” classes.  I would feel bad for them if I didn’t despise their monstrousness.

        1.  Shit, you don’t even have to be weathy to be a snob in poor countries, as long as we’re a little more rubiecitos and can claim to be middle class, it’s pink button down shirts and white belts all day long. 

  5. This whole Snowden debacle (from the US POV) should ring the alarm bells for the foreign affairs experts and politicians in Washington. Getting so openly hostile reactions (not just in content but also tone) from the involved international parties is quite unusual. If you constantly push too hard you risk that someone starts pushing back.

    1. A single photo without context doesn’t prove anything. Get me an Amnesty report at least.

      In any case, the US’s favourite torture camp is quite well documented, not to mention the utter lack of justice there.

  6. Did anyone see that Ecuador just called the US out on blackmailing them to hand over Snowden? They broke a trade pact. They just told us to go F ourselves! Yeah Ecuador! Its about time someone called us out.

  7. Just read U.S. military has blocked access to The Guardian. Presume Fox is still ok….

    So yeah…. 

  8. I love how the attention deviated from the U.S. government spying on its own citizens, straight to Ecuador. Wether Snowden was right or wrong in its doing, only time will tell, I’m not here to judge him.

    But I guess everything worked according to plan, people are concerned about freedom of speech in Ecuador, by the way I live here, instead of the the pushing issue here, how much of your freedom are you willing to give up in the name of security?

    I thought Obama was the best candidate on your last election, but wasn’t Nixon impeached for something similar? I’m sorry I’m not so familiar with that subject.

  9. Boing Boing is the only major media with the courage to tell it like it is and how the majority of Americans feel. We feel betrayed by our government and the media and the politicians supporting this invasion of privacy and abuse of power. Obama has done a complete 180 and should be ashamed of himself. I am pretty sure he is inside, as the insecurity shines through as he voices support of the spying.

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