Why Would Edward Snowden Want to Go to Ecuador?

Since Edward Snowden revealed mass surveillance tactics of the US and British governments, the saga of the U.S. National Security Agency ex-contractor has continued.

Snowden's actions have earned him both detractors and supporters; the former accuse him of treason and of endangering the security of the United States, while the latter consider him a champion of individual liberties.

Snowden's future remains uncertain. At the time of this article's original publication (July 3 on es.globalvoicesonline.org), the young American was reportedly staying in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, having requested asylum from twenty countries, including Cuba, Germany, Austria, and China. [Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have now offered him asylum. Added July 8.] Snowden initially sought status in Ecuador, but the Ecuadorian government is now sending mixed signals on whether or not his request will be granted. Nevertheless, many wonder: Why would Snowden want to go to a country like Ecuador, where press freedom has historicallly been restricted?

Snowden describes himself as a person who does not tolerate injustice. Indeed, Snowden decided to serve in the military during the Iraq War, since, according to him, he “felt like [he] had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression.” However, an injury in both legs prevented him from completing his military training, and so he moved from the Army into the world of information technology. Shortly thereafter, he went to work as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA) through the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

Edward Snowden is revered by those who defend personal freedoms, but is also criticized for treason to his country, the United States. Photo from Flickr/Adobe of Chaos (CC BY 2.0).

Photo from Flickr/Adobe of Chaos (CC BY 2.0).

Snowden decided to speak out against the government's high level of access to private information, which it obtained through PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program operated by the NSA. He currently stands accused of intellectual property theft, unauthorized disclosure of defense information, and willful communication of classified information to an unauthorized person, in this case the journalists of Great Britain's The Guardian and the United States’ Washington Post.

Snowden has stated that he wants to live in a country that abides by his principles. But his words are not wholly consistent with his actions. Why did he flee to countries known to restrict Internet access and freedom of expression (like Russia or China, by means of Hong Kong), and why would he try to settle in Ecuador?

In Ecuador, one of the more controversial recent cases threatening freedom of expression is that of Assembly member Clever Jiménez and political activists Fernando Villavicencio and Carlos Figueroa, who were accused of libel by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for criticizing him in political speeches. The court ruled in favor of Correa and convicted them [es] “of the crime of insulting the president.” Figueroa was sentenced to six months in jail, while Villavicencio and Jiménez received a sentence of 18 months. This is not the first time that the court has ruled in favor of Correa when he files lawsuits, thus restricting the opinions of his staunchest detractors.

According to a report from Human Rights Watch, after his dispute with the newspaper El Universo, Rafael Correa's government has approved a series of reforms that will place much stronger restrictions on any media entity that tries to criticize his government.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the new Communications Law grants the authorities powers that could lead to media censorship. In addition, the law seeks to regulate monopolization of the media, but it also imposes worrying restrictions against journalists of all kinds. The law prohibits “repeated attempts to destroy a natural or legal person with the goal of reducing their public credibility,” a decision that interferes with journalists’ ability to report on questionable activities of government authorities.

In a recent press release, the Organization of American States said that the law could “severely hinder the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and have a serious chilling effect that is incompatible with a democratic society.” Journalists who violate the law could be subject to civil or criminal sanctions.

Snowden's revelations have unleashed an international diplomatic crisis, the likes of which have not been seen since Julian Assange of Wikileaks did the same several years ago (Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador). The US asked Ecuador to reject Snowden; however, like other leftist Latin American countries, Ecuador has demonstrated its disapproval of Washington's influence in the region through the defiance it has shown before this request.

Should Ecuador grant Snowden asylum, the country would face pressure from the United States. But this also could pose another problem to Rafael Correa by shining a light on his well-known animosity toward the media and personal liberties, making the issue well known beyond Ecuador's borders (as explained by the magazine Mother Jones). If Snowden wants to live in a country that agrees with his ideals of freedom and transparency, he should carefully consider his desire to live in Ecuador.


  • Yoga GYE

    What a blatant lie is this article. The three persons that have the trial, is not about “insulting the president”, is about the lied. In September 30, 2010, President Correa was restrained in a police hospital, after policemen went on a “strike” for some goods that they used to received in Christmas before Correa. This goods, like toy for their children, were given to them since they had a very low salary. Nowadays, with President Correa, the Ecuadorian police is among the top 3 better paid in Latin America; their lowest salary was US$250 now is US$650. After the strike, 5 people died, all of them on the side of the President, trying to protect him; and these Assembly members that in this article are suppose to be held on trial for insulting, they presented a declaration accusing the President of scheming all this. They went as far as to say that Correa left the hospital, went to a university near by, had a reunion with other people and decided if people was going to die that night and return to the hospital to fake the was imprison. This article is written by somebody that does not have a clue what he is talking about. Lies, lies and lies. The person that wrote this, for sure, does not even know where Ecuador is and has never ever been there. Is this journalism?? Or are these just lies?

    • Thank you for your comments. This post is based on the knowledge of the author, and on reporting from multiple, credible press freedom organizations and media outlets. The thrust of the argument is that Rafael Correa’s administration is restricting media freedom through various means, including the new Organic Communications Law, of which we recent published an analysis. We can also assure you that the author, who is from Colombia, knows Ecuador very well.

  • eric

    The statement “I dont want to live in such a country.” refers to Edward’s STEP 1) TO TRY TO AVOID THE US (his home country) BECOMING SUCH A COUNTRY FOR GOOD.

    This is why he unveiled the files. This is not why he left the US.

    Step 2) He left the US so he wouldn’t go to jail instantly, and so he would have more to tell the world and keep the world’s attention. This is happening. – And beyond that, comes the Step 3) Continuing Life, preferably out of prison, not tortured, and alive. This means to choose a country that is not the US, leaving 200 or so. And among those 200, one that dares not be servile to the US, like England, or Australia, or Canada, or Germany. And one where the heads of state are pro his survival, either because (a) they care about the matter (zero chance given that politicians have other priorities from honesty), or (b) they don’t say yay to the US because they play their own game in the global CHESS GAME. This means he has to choose a country that is a WOLF itself, not behaving to the biggest WOLF, the US. *This again, is *only the case for Autocrats or Autocracies who are happy about their own spehere of influence. All parliamentary governments are under dependence of the US, without backbone or guts or integrity. — This only leaves a few chances. Or a miracle like the bigger Scandinavian states (improbable due to their close links to NATO and energy trade), or Iceland, – improbable since *SO small, he cannot possibly hide; and will soon get *accidentally killed*.

    So, the moral tone of this article is out of context.

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  • Drawde Nedwons

    We observed, as soon as a home, the title . the question why Edward Snowden wanted to have gone to Ecuador. Without too much delay, Edward Snowden is still at the service of the intelligence service of the U.S. and is a twig-warrant, strategically, manufactured and to fulfill the purpose of the service of espionage, whose interest is not in any other country that is not the case here, you “welcomed”.Let’s leave of childishness, and come back a little more in the history of these two countries, whose objective mor is imperialism, falsely, disclosed, are the United States of America. Connect ….

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