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Across Ecuador and Latin America, Social Media Erupts With Rage Over Assange Arrest

Elias Marat

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Assange Arrest
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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

Posted by Regeneración on Thursday, April 11, 2019

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.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, who once boasted of his austere diet of “rice and eggs,” dines on lobster for breakfast and dinner in photos released by WikiLeaks #INAPapers.

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.”

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.

Posted by The New York Times en Español on Thursday, April 11, 2019

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.

News

Adam Toledo: Chicago Police Video Shows 13-Year-Old’s Hands Were Up When Cops Shot Him

Elias Marat

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The Chicago Police Department has released gruesome footage depicting the moment that police officers fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo while his hands were up.

In new bodycam footage from the March 29 slaying, an officer pursuing Toledo can be heard shouting at the young boy to show his “f*cking hands” before shooting him a single time, leaving the boy covered in blood and gasping for air.

While the officer can be heard shouting “drop it,” the teenager appeared to have empty hands when he raised his arms in the moment before he was shot. Video also shows officers discovering a handgun near the scene.

Adam was later pronounced dead at the scene.

The video released Thursday by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability the footage from the officer who shot Toledo, along with 16 other body-warn camera video clips, two recordings of 911 calls, an incident report, and a response report, along with other materials.

The mother of Adam, Elizabeth Toledo, reported the boy one week prior to the shooting, although he did return hom on March 27 before leaving that night, reports WBEZ.  Because Adam did not have any form of identification, the family wasn’t informed by police about his death until March 31. In a GoFundMe page set up by Elizabeth, it was noted that one of Adam’s “dreams was to become a police officer.”

“It weighs heavy on our hearts to be planning our last goodbyes instead of watching him grow up and live out those dreams,” the family noted on the page.

The child has been described as having a “big imagination” and was a fan of children’s shows and zombie movies.

“Adam was really into zombies. And the zombie apocalypse. He even had this zombie apocalypse bag packed and ready to go. Some of his favorite movies and TV shows were ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,’ ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ ‘Toy Story,’ ‘Cars,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’” Elizabeth told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has appealed for calm over the release of the gruesome footage while businesses in the area have boarded up their windows in anticipation of large protests.

“We live in a city that is traumatized by a long history of police violence and misconduct,” the mayor told reporters. “So while we don’t have enough information to be the judge and jury of this particular situation, it is certainly understandable why so many of our residents are feeling that all too familiar surge of outrage and pain.”

The release of the video comes amid continuing anger and grief over the April 11 shooting of Daunte Wright by an officer in a Minneapolis suburb.

It also comes as authorities fear a new wave of protests as communities await the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police officer accused of killing George Floyd last May after kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

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Music

Lil Nas X Song Is #1 In Saudi Arabia, Where Homosexuality Is Illegal Under Sharia Law

Elias Marat

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Lil Nas X has been on top of the world for weeks now, whether it’s living rent-free in the heads of homophobes or topping the Billboard charts after his smash hit “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” dominated playlists.

And ironically, the anthem has become the most-played song in Saudi Arabia, the conservative kingdom where open expressions of same-sex love and even private acts of gay sex are punishable by death.

The song, whose video features the artist giving Satan himself a lap dance have dominated news conversations all over the globe, smashed through to the top of the Billboard Global 200, which ranks top tracks in over 200 territories, on Monday.

According to Apple Music, the song is also leading Saudi Arabia’s top 100 charts as the most-played song in the country.

Apparently overjoyed by the ranking, Lil Nas X tweeted: “WE NUMBER 1 IN SAUDI ARABIA WTF LETS GOOOO”

The autocratic kingdom, which has long been governed by a strict yet uncodified interpretation of Sharia law, has an atrocious record on LGBTQ rights and classifies homosexuality as a variety of extremism. N many circumstances, gay sex is punishable by death.

As the Human Dignity Trust explains, “The punishment varies depending on the circumstances: married men and interfaith sex are punished with the death penalty, while non-married men are punished with flogging. Sharia law principles underpinning the criminal law in Saudi Arabia also impose strict dress codes that impact on the gender expression of transgender people.”

However, this does not mean that Saudi citizens abstain from these “illicit” acts. As one fan wrote on Twitter: Period!!!! Let’s correct the narrative about the Middle East! Shoutout Saudi Arabia.”

However, another user responded: “I lived in Saudi Arabia my whole [life] and if I come out I will literally get stoned and people will be happy about it, saying it’s a ‘narrative’ doesn’t help anyone in the contrary, the middle IS homophobic and change NEEDS to happen.”

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Corruption

Cop Who ‘Accidentally’ Killed Daunte Wright Arrested on 2nd-Degree Manslaughter Charges

Elias Marat

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The former Minnesota cop who shot and killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old unarmed Black man, during a traffic stop will now face charges of second-degree manslaughter, a prosecutor announced on Wednesday.

The brutal killing of Wright, which comes amid the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for last May’s killing of George Floyd, threatens to spark a new round of nationwide protests against police brutality and discriminatory policing.

On Wednesday, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput confirmed that Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, would be charged.

On Wednesday morning, agents with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrested Potter, the bureau announced in a statement.

Potter was taken into custody in St. Paul and will be booked at Hennepin County jail.

On Tuesday, Potter resigned as demands for justice for Wright reverberated nationwide. Her resignation coincided with that of the city’s former police chief, who claims that Potter accidentally grabbed her Glock when she thought she was reaching for her Taser during the Sunday traffic stop.

Wright’s family and attorneys have rejected the claim that Wright’s death was merely the result of an “accident” and are demanding accountability and sweeping reforms of policing in Minnesota.

Potter could face up to 10 years in prison along with a $20,000 fine, per Minnesota law.

“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back,” said Wright family attorney Ben Crump in a statement.

“This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate and unlawful use of force,” the statement added.

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