Archive for South America
A lawyer representing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said that there was a “great concern” that a new Ecuadorian President could force him out of the country’s London embassy, the media reported on Sunday. Ecuador’s presidential race will be decided in a run-off election, to be held April 2, between ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno and opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso. Moreno has indicated he would back Assange’s continued stay, while Lasso has indicated he would evict the Australian activist within 30 days of taking office. “We are preparing potential legal remedies should the opposition come to power in Ecuador,” Jennifer Robinson, a member of the legal team representing Assange and Wikileaks, told NBC News. “You don’t change asylum protections just because a change of government,” she added. Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador in 2012, and has been sheltering in the country’s UK embassy since then, in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault. The whistleblower said he fears Swedish authorities could deport him to the US, where he argues his work with Wikileaks could earn him life in prison or even the death penalty.
The South American country of Guyana says it is investigating allegations that the Chinese embassy has been using its diplomatic status to bring in tax-free goods from China and distribute them to local merchants. Guyana Revenue Commissioner Godfrey Statia told The Associated Press on Friday that customs officers reported the embassy had been receiving unusually large shipments. Shipments tied to a diplomatic mission are not fully searched. Statia said there’s a big difference in prices in items being sold by Chinese-owned stores compared with the Guyanese ones. The Chinese embassy called the allegations baseless and said it reserves the right to take legal action.
Julian Assange will be given a month’s notice to leave the Ecuadorian embassy if the country’s main opposition candidate wins the presidency in next week’s election. In an interview with the Guardian, Guillermo Lasso, of the rightwing Creo-Suma alliance, said it was time for the WikiLeaks founder to move on because his asylum was expensive and no longer justified. “The Ecuadorian people have been paying a cost that we should not have to bear,” he said during an interview in Quito. “We will cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate.” Even if there is no change in power in Quito, however, it seems increasingly likely that Assange will soon be moving from the cramped embassy in Knightsbridge that has been his refuge for more than four and a half years. Although the current government has maintained its position of solidarity, all involved have grown increasingly frustrated with a situation that Ecuador’s top diplomat described as “something out of a John le Carré novel”. “Our staff have been through a lot. There is a human cost,” said the foreign minister, Guillaume Long. “This is probably the most watched embassy on the planet.” British police and intelligence have kept the embassy under close surveillance since Ecuador granted asylum in June 2012 to prevent Assange’s extradition to Sweden for questioning about a sexual assault accusation.
Colombian officials say a luxury car belonging to Venezuela’s embassy was involved in a crash that killed one pedestrian and left eight other people injured. Police say the driver of the BMW with diplomatic plates allegedly was drunk at the time of the accident. The car was speeding on a major avenue in Bogota when it hit a pedestrian and two idle taxis. Col. Manuel Silva, the head of Bogota’s traffic police, told The Associated Press that an embassy official appeared to have loaned the car to a family member. Venezuelan officials told authorities that neither the driver nor three passengers in the car worked for the embassy. The driver was taken into police custody and hospitalized.
Assange fears he is being bugged at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Lawyers claim the WikiLeaks founder, who has been holed up in the embassy for the past two years to avoid extradition to Sweden, ‘is most likely under auditory surveillance’. Last year a covert listening device was found behind a plug socket in the ambassador’s office, but security experts described it as rudimentary and unlikely to have been the work of police or the security services. Mr Assange’s new eavesdropping claim was included in a court submission last week in which his lawyers argue his confinement is a ‘deprivation of liberty’ under European law. Among other reasons, they cite his cramped living conditions which mean he ‘cannot carry out his professional duties in a normal fashion’. The 43-year-old has lived at the embassy since Ecuador gave him asylum in 2012.
The former househelp in the Venezuelan Embassy Tuesday told the High Court she could not remember whether the embassy was used as a drugs conduit, but had recollection of wild parties. Zipporah Ivulu denied, however, allegations that former First Secretary Dwight Sagaray instructed staff never to respect Olga Fonseca as their new boss. Sagaray and four others are charged with Fonseca’s murder. The envoy was found murdered at the embassy on July 2012. Ivulu, who worked at the embassy for eight years, said she could not remember if there was drugs business. But the former ambassador Geraldo De Silva used to host “wild parties” at which revelers at the residence were naked. The witness told Justice Roselyn Korir that embassy staff “had an issue with that (naked guests)”. “We complained and told them to respect our presence and dress appropriately at such parties,” she said. On Monday, advocate for the embassy Njeri Mucheru told the court Fonseca and Sagaray had a hostile relationship.
Newsline: Argentine President lashes out at US interim ambassador for ‘provocative’ report on crime in Argentina
Argentine President questioned the warning message issued on Tuesday by the US Embassy in Buenos Aires, saying it is “in line” with anti-government media, and seriously doubting interim ambassador in Buenos Aires Kevin Sullivan’s intentions with the note. The security message said US citizens have reported a number of crimes to the embassy and it went on to recommend that US citizens traveling and living in Argentina should “always be aware of their surroundings and maintain a high level of vigilance”. “The note is a provocation. Usually, when the embassy issues this type of warning messages, it focuses on specific events such as political rallies or hostage situations which can be dangerous to US citizens,” the Argentine president explained. “In this case, the threat is not specific. It describes Argentina as if we were living in the far-west,” she added, and went on to doubt US interim ambassador in Buenos Aires Kevin Sullivan’s intentions with the note. “Let me tell you, I’m not mad and they are not going to make me furious, as president of the 40 million Argentines, the first thing I demand is respect, that they respect us as a country”.