RT: Mr. Patiño, thank you for joining
us here on RT.
Ricardo Patiño: Thank you, Eva, thank you for inviting me. I
would like to greet all the people who are listening to us all over the
world. Listening, not eavesdropping.
RT: I would like to start with the most recent events.
The presidents of
Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have officially stated that they are
willing to grant political asylum to former CIA employee
who revealed top secret information on the US espionage program. The
three countries are members of ALBA, so this step was perceived as a
kind of collective asylum offer by the whole region.
What is Ecuador’s
stance on the neighboring countries offering asylum to Snowden? As of
now, is Latin America the stronghold of justice and solidarity?
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño
RP: While going through democratization, developing in social, economic
and political spheres, Latin American countries also secured their
position in the international arena and now express their own opinions.
The 1954 Caracas Convention on Diplomatic Asylum states that Latin
America is concerned about human rights issues. We considered
Assange’s request for asylum last year, and similarly, we have
We welcome other countries’ willingness to grant
asylum to Snowden.
After what happened to President Evo Morales there’s
no doubt that Snowden is being persecuted on a global level.
RT: Mr. Patiño, you said that the Ecuadorian authorities have considered
Snowden’s request for asylum.
Are you still considering it? That is, is
Ecuador still considering the possibility of granting asylum to Edward
Snowden or is it enough that other Latin American countries have offered
RP: In my opinion, the more countries offer asylum, the better.
Naturally, Ecuador is still considering this possibility, but it’d be
better if 10, 20, 100 states offered asylum instead of just three.
countries should realize what he did, what he uncovered and consider
granting Snowden asylum.
RT: How significant is the information about the US mass espionage that
Mr. Snowden revealed for Ecuador? Ecuador has a long history of its own
when it comes to
the CIA and whistleblowers.
For example, in his book
former CIA agent Philip Agee revealed the US involvement in a coup in
Ecuador. Did this new information come as a surprise for the Ecuadorian
people or were they ready for it?
RP: It was more than just a surprise - we were outraged. We knew the US
was doing it, but now it’s been unequivocally proven.
It just indicates
that the American intelligence agencies responsible for ensuring
‘security’ have refined their tactics. In the past they planted bugs to
find out what our presidents thought. They keep doing that, by the way.
Recently, about three weeks ago, we found a hidden microphone in our
embassy in London. But the technology has gone way beyond that. Now they
know what people all over the world say, and getting close to their
targets to plant bugs isn’t as important.
They control communications on
the global level, and
are their partners in crime, which allows them to violate international
laws and agreements.
The national flag flies outside
Ecuador's embassy in central London
(Reuters / Chris Helgren)
RT: Minister, you just mentioned the recently-discovered microphone in
Ecuador’s embassy in London. It was determined that the microphone
belonged to a private British surveillance company.
Do you believe they
were spying on you according to Washington’s instructions? How are you
planning to fight such outrageous violation of your country’s
RP: This situation certainly is outrageous.
We asked for UK’s
cooperation in this investigation to determine who exactly was spying,
and where this information was transmitted to. According to our
preliminary investigation, we suspect that the surveillance company CK
was receiving the data. But we need the UK’s technical assistance to
confirm this information.
Also a criminal case should be started.
It is unacceptable to spy on a country’s diplomatic mission staying in
another country upon the latter’s invitation. We don’t have such
technical capacities as developed countries do. But we are convinced
that in this case, the UK will show the proper tolerance, unlike in the
case of Assange, and will help Ecuador in its efforts to find those
responsible for espionage in our embassy.
It’s hard to tell now when the
bug was planted; it’s much easier technically to find out who was
receiving the data, which we will hopefully do with UK’s help and
RT: Let’s go back to the information leaked by Edward Snowden.
International media have reported the recent mass espionage by the US in
What does Ecuador think about it? Do you think the US could’ve
performed the same kind of espionage in Ecuador as well? If so, how
would it impact your relations with Washington?
RP: Sadly, the more information we get the more we are frustrated. Other
than Brazil, espionage has been reported in a number of countries,
including Ecuador. I just learned about it several minutes ago.
evidence that the US has been spying on our countries. The entire world
has been affected by the US espionage, whether it’s alleged enemies or
friends and neighbors of this country. At a certain point, someone
mistakenly referred to Latin America as the US’ backyard.
So we’d like
to ask the international community if they think the US has lost its
so-called back yard and decided to establish it elsewhere. In Latin
America, this kind of era is coming to an end, and we will never be
anyone’s backyard the way it was during the military dictatorship times.
Supporters of Bolivia's President Evo Morales
burn a head mask of U.S.
President Barack Obama
which is on top of a fake coffin bearing Obama's
(Reuters / David Mercado)
This is now a proper sovereign developing region, and its people are
Our way is the way of ideology, so it looks like other
regions are now becoming the US’ backyards. Some countries had been
subject to espionage and sovereignty violation, but didn’t demand a
response from those who breached the international conventions.
they took such severe measures as in dealing with President Morales when
his life itself was jeopardized. So one should be careful saying where
the backyard really is right now.
Latin America, including Ecuador, has
a higher level of sovereignty and independence.
RT: Let’s talk about the recent plane-grounding incident when the
presidential jet of Evo Morales was forced to land en route from Moscow
Some European countries abruptly blocked their airspace to
him, and that made President Correa call an emergency summit of the UNASUR in Cochabamba. The summit came up with a statement that
unanimously condemned the illegal action undertaken against President
So have the Non-Aligned Movement and The Group of 77, which
represent a large part of the international community. They expressed
their anger over the incident and openly supported Bolivia and Latin
But what specific measures can be taken to rebuke these
European countries that committed such an offensive act against Bolivia?
Are any sanctions possible?
RP: When we talk about the Latin American response to the incident,
please bear in mind the differences that we have. You can’t say all the
governments think alike.
Yes, there is a certain common ground. However,
when a tough response is required, the governments take diverging
positions. But it is true that the incident caused a strong response.
Remember that the Organization of American States is meeting today and
we hope it speaks no less strongly and convincingly than the countries
that have already voiced their opinion on the subject.
The OAS Secretary General has already given a clear and timely comment
in his praiseworthy statement. What we should do is turn those countries
accountable for their behavior and make them apologize. We must make the
It’s not like Mr. Morales was told they wouldn’t allow him to leave
Russia - although that would have been a true debacle.
Bolivian presidential plane taxis to the runway
before leaving the
Vienna International Airport
in Schwechat July 3, 2013
The incident took place during the flight, when he had already had the
permission to cross France’s airspace.
And that’s when they told him,
“Mr. President, you cannot enter our airspace.”
They endangered his
life, because he wanted the plane to go back and request permission to
fly over some other country, but they told him he couldn’t do that
That’s why the presidential jet had to make an emergency
landing. That was too much!
President Correa made it clear that this incident cannot be ignored. Had
that happened to a European or US leader flying over a Latin American
country, it could have started a war.
They would have immediately sent
bomber planes and troops to that country to ‘save’ their president.
So we decided we should act accordingly. What we wanted was to get those
governments to apologize and assure us that would never happen again.
You can’t go on discriminating against countries, believing that
international law is applicable to some and not applicable to others.
You can’t divide countries into first-class and second-class. That’s
This is a violation of every international agreement and
every human right - just like this pervasive international espionage.
Not only does wiretapping our phone calls and reading our letters go
against ethics, but it also blatantly infringes upon Article 12 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the right to
privacy, the right to be protected against being spied on.
Now, the Declaration certainly has a different wording, but I gave you
the general idea. It’s high time we started to respect all the countries
in the world instead of putting some of them above all others.
RT: Now that you mentioned sovereignty, international law and its
violations, let’s move on to Julian Assange, who has been locked up in
the Ecuadorean Embassy in London ever since you granted him asylum.
However, he hasn’t been able to travel to Ecuador, since the British
government refuses to recognize the asylum or to grant him safe passage.
You have met both with Assange and the British government officials.
Have you been able to work out a solution, or do you see a solution in
the future? We can see Ecuador’s sovereignty and the rights of Julian Assange breached. So what is there to expect in the coming months?
RP: We need to make a few things clear.
First, Ecuador never ceases to
offer alternative ways out of this problem. We have even put forward a
legal cause - though there was little need for that. It would’ve been
enough to say that Assange asked us for asylum, and after looking into
the situation, we decided to comply with his request.
But we decided to
go further. We took moral high ground vis-a-vis the British government.
By the way, when the Olympic Games started in London, we decided to
postpone our ultimate decision so as not to upset political stability in
the UK. We exercised a lot of caution and respect towards the UK.
is regrettable that the UK has given us no response so far.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
gestures as he appears to speak from
the balcony of Ecuador's embassy,
where he is taking refuge in London
(Reuters / Chris Helgren)
We listed every legally-sound reason that allows us to grant asylum as a
And with Britain insisting on arresting Assange and
extraditing him to Sweden under European law, we had to draft a detailed
document explaining how and why the UK has every right to grant Assange
safe passage - or rather, why it actually HAS to do that.
As the British have acknowledged, this has to do with conflicting laws.
On the one hand, there is an international agreement that allows Ecuador
to grant asylum to Assange.
On the other hand, there are European laws
that allegedly bind the UK to extradite him to Sweden. But there is a
certain hierarchy of laws. In this hierarchy, international humanitarian
law is what matters most. So it is more important to abide by
international humanitarian law than to meticulously follow all the
criminal proceedings to arrest and extradite Assange.
And there are of
course human rights to be respected.
So we had to explain this hierarchy in the document I handed over to the
British Foreign Secretary William Hague on June 17, if I remember the
date correctly. The document was supposed to convince him that he is
obliged to grant safe passage to Assange under international law.
asked him, so what is the UK waiting for? Would you like Assange to grow
old and die in our embassy? Or would you like to see him fall ill and
receive no medical help? He has already been warned that once he leaves
the embassy, he will be arrested straight away - even if he is seriously
ill. Is this what you are waiting for?
I keep asking myself: how do the British and the rest of the world see
this situation? It is actually rather grave.
We can see here a breach of
international law by the same people who have long sought to lecture us
on rights and freedoms, who demand legal security from relatively less
developed countries, claiming they need it for investment. But we want
legal security in everything. It’s not only money that needs legal
security, but so do people, too.
This is the truth we want to get across
to the West.
It is unfair to ask legal security for money only. What you first need
to take care of is legal security for people and human rights.
RT: Considering that Julian Assange hasn’t managed to get to Ecuador
this past year, do you think it’s possible for Edward Snowden to arrive
in one of the Latin American countries that offered him asylum?
A woman holds a portrait of former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward
in front of her face as she stands in front of
the U.S. embassy
during a protest in Berlin
(Reuters / Thomas Peter)
RP: I think it’s possible. Let’s not forget the numerous political
events, toughest situation that the world faced.
Take, for example, the
last century - in particular, the events in Latin America. So many
blood-soaked dictatorships and many cases of political persecution
besides. What many European countries did in these cases, and what Latin
American countries did, was protect the persecuted people.
No one asked
them if they had a passport or a visa or guaranteed safe passage.
were obviously the cases of political persecution, so we took these
people under our protection, transported them to other countries. I’m
talking about all the countries in the world - well, maybe not all, but
most of the countries that claim to be democratic and committed to
protecting human rights.
We took these people under our protection.
For example, many Chileans, Argentineans and Uruguayans came to Ecuador and asked for asylum. They
left their home countries in any way they could to save their lives.
Most European countries also protected them.
They didn’t ask the
persecuted to show their birth certificates or passports or visas. No.
These people were running from political persecution. So I’m asking
myself, isn’t it the same with Snowden? And then this incident with
President Evo Morales’s plane.
If anyone had any doubts about Snowden
being politically persecuted, it’s become crystal clear now.
RT: And the last question. Let me ask you about an event that had a
major impact on all Latin American countries - Hugo Chavez’s death.
been four months since he passed away. He was a leader known worldwide,
but he was a particularly important figure for Latin America. He was one
of the fathers of the Latin America as we see it now - united, proud,
sovereign and capable of overcoming the challenges superpowers place in
What did Hugo Chavez mean for Ecuador and how does his legacy
RP: Comandante Hugo Chavez was a unique person whose legacy lives on in
He was the herald of this second turning point on the way
to independent Latin America. He fought for it on his own in difficult
circumstances, at international meetings, where he defended Latin
America’s independence, sovereignty and the right to development. The
solidarity with Latin American nations that he expressed is
Comandante Chavez’s memory from the bottom of our hearts,
blessed be his soul.
His legacy is of vital importance. It’s not only
his legacy that he gave us, but his friendship and his care. We remember
him with love in our hearts, and we feel the same love towards his
We would like to express our support to Nicolas Maduro and the
Venezuelan government that will continue Hugo Chavez’s political course
on their own, without his prominent personality or the importance it had
for Venezuela and Latin America in general, but with more determination,
because Latin America has high expectations of them as well.
America will keep developing thanks to Hugo Chavez’s legacy and
Venezuela’s new government.
RT: Latin America, without a doubt, cherishes the memory of Hugo Chavez.
Thank you, Ricardo Patiño, Foreign Minister of Ecuador, for coming to
RP: Thank you very much for this opportunity to connect with so many
people at once and do it freely and legally, as opposed to other ways
some countries employ. Thank you very much.