The dramatic arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange continues to elicit a range of responses from observers, politicians, journalists and activists from around the world and across the political spectrum.
Assange, 47, had been living at the Embassy of Ecuador in London since 2012, when then-President Rafael Correa granted political asylum to the Australian amid the British government’s attempts to detain him.
In the United States, both right- and left-wing commentators celebrated the arrest of the journalist–either on the basis of past sexual assault allegations, a perception that the libertarian journalist assisted the Trump campaign in 2016, or the belief Assange was an asset of Russian intelligence agencies.
Momento de la detención de Julian #Assange #EmbajadaDeEcuador #Londres
In Latin America, however, Assange has been seen as a symbol of Latin American defiance to the United States, a man whom late Cuban leader Fidel Castro once hailed as having brought the U.S. empire “to its knees” through Wikileaks’ daring release of scandalous material, including leaked information that implicated the U.S. military in potential war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since 2017, however, with the rise to power of Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno, Assange’s relationship with his Ecuadorean hosts sharply deteriorated, especially after Wikileaks’ recent release of documents known as the “INA Papers” that implicated the president in alleged corruption, including money-laundering, offshore bank accounts and shell companies based in Panama, and lurid images showing from the president’s personal cell phone that reveal his opulent lifestyle.
In a press release following Assange’s arrest, U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said:
“I thank Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno for taking this crucial step. Former President Rafael Correa’s initial decision to grant Mr. Assange safe harbor created this irritant in our relationship with Ecuador. I look forward to working closely with President Moreno to further deepen US-Ecuador relations.”
Across Ecuadorian social media and news outlets, the country’s left has seethed over the handover of Assange to British authorities.
Former President Correa minced no words in his criticism of Moreno, denouncing him in an English-language tweet as “the greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history … Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.”
The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange.
Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget. https://t.co/XhT51MA6c6
— Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) April 11, 2019
In a separate tweet responding to Moreno’s announcement of the handover, Correa further tore into what he called “one of the most atrocious acts [and the] fruit of servility, villainy and revenge.”
“From now on worldwide, the scoundrel and betrayal can be summarized in two words: Lenin Moreno,” the popular former president added.
On Facebook, former Foreign Minister Guillaume Long likewise denounced the handover and manner in which British police entered the diplomatic property as “a national shame and historical error that will leave a deep mark on Ecuador for a long time.” The former top diplomat also listed off the ways in which the handover violated Assange’s rights under relevant case law in international courts, noting that it represented the “the ethical degradation of political power in [Ecuador].”
Beyond former officials, voices from grassroots social movements were even less kind toward the president’s controversial move to appease Washington, which they saw as connected to the country’s recent bailout by the IMF to the tune of $4.2 billion.
Ecuador’s Popular Press Network (Red de Prensa Popular Ecuador RPP-E) was blistering in its assessment of the government’s move, posting to Facebook:
“Moreno and his government lend themselves to the interests of major global corporations. Today he delivered Julian Assange to the clutches of American imperialism.”
Similar sentiments were evident across Spanish-language social media feeds. The New York Times en Español’s Facebook post about the arrest was inundated by messages from netizens across Latin America denouncing the Ecuadorean government’s move, with such comments as:
- “Julian Assange is a modern hero whom the whole world … has an obligation to defend. He’s a bulwark of freedom of expression.”
- “Freedom of expression is being held captive. Moreno is obeying instructions from his love, the racist Trump.”
- “They sold him to the highest bidder to look good for the U.S. A modern-day Pontius Pilate.”
- “Another boot-licker in the South – at what point did our friends in South America lose their dignity?”
- “Lenin Moreno imitates Judas Iscariot, handing over Julian Assange to Uncle Sam so [Assange] can be crucified.”
- “You always knew this day was coming. To those of us who are told lies every day, we thank you for your sacrifice for the sake of truth. Hero of the world.”
- “Lenin Moreno is a lackey of the empire.”
El presidente de Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, acusó al fundador de WikiLeaks de violar reiteradamente los términos de su asilo político, que le retiró hoy.
In the meantime, however, figures aligned with the government as well as the conservative and center-right former opposition in Ecuador hailed the handover and what they saw as the government’s move to stop paying exorbitant amounts of money for housing Assange at the embassy in London.
While the U.S. left and right are largely united in their hatred of Assange, often for diametrically-opposed reasons–his support for Trump, his exposure of U.S. war crimes, his alleged collaboration with foreign intelligence services–the reaction in Latin America has been the polar opposite.
The reactions from the Global South show that the Wikileaks founder, for all of his perceived faults, is seen by many as nothing less than a heroic figure who stared down Washington and its junior partners like Lenin Moreno until the bitter end in a bid to cast light on the dark secrets, scandals and crimes of the international order.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.