Any house guest gets to be tiresome after a while, but if Lenin Moreno’s accurate, Julian Assange is in a class by himself. Facing criticism from predecessor Rafael Correa for expelling the Wikileaks founder, the Ecuadorian president called Assange a “spoiled brat” who made life in the London embassy hell. Ecuadorians might value hospitality, Moreno explained to his countrymen, but fecal matter on the wall was the last straw.
The dramatic end to Julian Assange’s asylum has sparked curiosity about his 7-year stay inside Ecuador’s Embassy in London that was marked by his late-night skateboarding, the physical harassment of his caretakers and even the smearing of his own fecal matter on the walls of the diplomatic mission.
It would’ve tested the patience of any host. But for tiny Ecuador, which prides itself on its hospitality and spent almost $1 million a year protecting Assange, it was also seen as a national insult.
“We’ve ended the asylum of this spoiled brat,” a visibly flustered President Lenin Moreno said Thursday in a fiery speech explaining his decision to withdraw protection of Assange and hand him over to British police. “From now on we’ll be more careful in giving asylum to people who are really worth it, and not miserable hackers whose only goal is to destabilize governments.”
The smearing of poop on the wall was a protest that calls for a much more colorful metaphor than biting the hand that feeds you:
Then there was the issue of Assange’s poop, which authorities said he spread across embassy walls on at least one occasion in an act of open defiance showing how little he thought of his hosts.
“When you’re given shelter, cared for and provided food, you don’t denounce the owner of the house,” Moreno said Thursday to applause.
According to Moreno and others within the embassy contacted by NBC, Assange appears to have had some kind of mental breakdown while holed up in the embassy. One source claimed that Assange would go weeks without showering, created a horrible personal stench matched by the smell coming out of his room. That certainly made the UK assignment a lot less attractive to Ecuadorian diplomatic staff, whom Assange began accusing of being American spies and allegedly harassing them verbally and physically as well.
Moreno wasn’t alone in sharing reasons for Assange’s expulsion. Foreign minister Jose Valencia claimed that Assange had threatened Ambassador Jaime Merchan a few months earlier with some vague devastating consequences if Ecuador forced him out of the embassy. Merchan and Moreno took the threat seriously enough to invite the London police into the embassy to grab Assange by surprise and keep him from going back to his room to set off whatever Assange might have set up.
Some might find this public disparagement distasteful, but it’s almost certainly a political necessity for Moreno. Correa’s thumb in the eye to the US and UK with his asylum grant to Assange was popular in Ecuador, and Correa had already begun some throat-clearing in preparation to attack Moreno over Assange’s expulsion. That pressure will only increase when Assange inevitably gets extradited to the US to stand trial, so Moreno needed to head that off before it picked up any momentum. Ecuadorians might have had some sympathy for Assange for his defiance of the US, but few of them will argue that a man who smears his own poop on the walls of their embassy deserves to receive any more of their hospitality.
On extradition, Valencia gave Moreno some thin political cover later:
Ecuador was not aware of any active extradition requests for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before it terminated his asylum in the country’s London embassy on Thursday, the foreign minister told the national assembly.
“At the time the decision to finalize his asylum was made, there was only a case in the United Kingdom for violating the conditions of his bail in 2012,” Foreign Minister Jose Valencia told lawmakers in Quito, the capital.
That’s because the US hadn’t made it public, but … come on, man. Everyone knew that the US wanted to prosecute Assange in connection to the Chelsea Manning case somehow. Ecuador knew what would happen if they released Assange, as did Assange himself. If he didn’t want to get extradited to the US, though, maybe he should have kept his shit to himself.
Here’s Moreno telling Ecuadorians about the “spoiled brat,” although he apparently leaves out the smellier details. No English-subtitled version was available from anyone but RT, which seemed too ironic under the circumstances to use.