In a meeting with Julian Assange, the MST establishes a partnership with Wikileaks
by Maíra Kubík Mano
Every day in front of the Embassy of Ecuador in London, a group of five people meet for a protest. With some posters and a hand-sewn banner, they are demanding the release of Wikileaks found Julian Assange who is confined in the building. "We are organizing a big action on June 19, can you participate?" they ask passersby. The Embassy is located in a tourist area of the city, right next to a large department store and the protest draws lots of attention.
After Sweden demanded the arrest of Assange in connection with a sexual harassment lawsuit, the Australian entered the Embassy of Ecuador to avoid extradition. He received political asylum from the government of Rafael Correa, but if he leaves, he will be arrested immediately. At least two policemen patrol the embassy 24 hours a day at the cost of at least 3.8 million pounds (U.S. $ 14.6 million), as revealed by the Metropolitan Police. "Besides everything else, they are wasting our money," complains one of the activists, a Chilean lady who has lived in London since the coup against Salvador Allende.
The forced isolation limits Assange not only in his physical movements as well as his communication. Anyone who wants to talk to him must go through his advisors and be checked out. Upon entering the building, cell phones, cameras and any other electronic devices are confiscated to ensure his privacy. Journalists are strictly prohibited. And expelled, if they try - imagine how I got this information.
On May14 one of Brazil's major social movements, the MST, met with the head of an organization that shook international diplomacy, banks and even the Church of Scientology after leaking thousands of documents in their seven years activity. The discussion focused on the alliance between the Latin American social movements and Wikileaks.
The meeting goes on for a long time and at 6pm, the group protesting in front of the building breaks up. "I'm going to the Embassy of Syria. The situation is ugly there, "says one. Now it's just me and the cops looking at the Embassy, one floor of an upscale building. It is said that the space where Assange stays is just a few square meters.
After two hours of discussion - and many walks around the block for me - Joao Paulo Rodrigues, of the MST's national leadership, came out stating that "it is important that social movements are united in the struggle to get asylum in Ecuador for Assange." According to Rodrigues, the conversation "flowed easily" and the MST will help pressure Sweden to allow Assange to go to the South American country.
The founder of Wikileaks was also apprehensive about the possibility of being extradited to the United States. "He thinks that if Sweden arrests him they will send him to the United States to face charges of espionage," Rodrigues says.
The MST promised to join the mobilization of June 19, when Assange completes two years in the embassy, holding protests in Swedish and U.S. embassies. The landless will also circulate a petition along with other social and intellectual movements to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In exchange for the solidarity they received, Wikileaks volunteered to contribute to the dissemination of MST activities to their 5 million followers worldwide.
At the end, the MST representatives handed to the founder of Wikileaks a poster signed by "social movements of Alba" (Boliariana Alliance for the Peoples of America) with photos of Assange, Chelsea Manning - sentenced to 35 years prison for leaking confidential data U.S. - and Edward Snowden, a former CIA officer currently exiled in Russia. "All solidarity with those fighting against the Empire," read the poster.
They posed for photos taken by Assange's assistant, who edits the photos before releasing them – we have not received them yet. Lots of photos with the red MST cap. Good-humored, Rodrigues placed the movement at his disposition: if you need asylum in Brazil, we can offer our settlements. He received an embrace in return.
At night, only the police were left.