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Yesterday Julian Assange, co-founder of Wikileaks, was arrested from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he took refuge seven years back, after the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.

Interestingly, exactly a month back, on March 11, Ecuador clinched a $4.2 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF press release says, (with this loan) “the Ecuadorian authorities’ plan aims to create a more dynamic, sustainable, and inclusive economy for the benefit of all Ecuadorians.”

A Reuters story says, “The country will also receive $6 billion in loans from multilateral institutions including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the CAF Andean development bank, Moreno said in a message broadcast on national television and radio.”

That makes it $10 bn. That’s a big amount for a $104 bn economy.

Arrests & Reactions

The arrests have come under severe criticism by many. Noted journalist John Pilger called it “barbarity” and said this is a “warning to all journalists.”

The United Nations special rapporteur on arbitrary, summary or extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, said Ecuador’s decision “has exposed Mr Assange to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights”, The Express Tribune reported.

The leader of the Labour Party in UK Jeremy Corbyn said UK should be protecting Assange from extradition to the US for exposing violations in Iraq.

US Efforts to get Assange

Ever since the release of classified documents exposing its serious war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and murky business deals of US’ top brass, US has been trying to extradite Assange to try him in US for what they say “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”. They allege that Assange colluded with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was arrested in 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 confidential documents, videos and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. Manning was released in 2017 and was rearrested last month for mounting a principled opposition to testifying before a secretive Grand Jury. According to Digital rights group Fight for the Future, Grand Juries have frequently been used as secretive tools to punish, harass, and entrap activists. There is a long and important history of resisting these acts of government overreach.

Having exhausted all legal and political avenues, the US seems to have turned to the age-old trick of using ‘economic aid’ and getting their work done.

The Economics of Assange’s arrest

US controls the functioning of both IMF and World Bank Group with their political and economic hegemony over the institutions and has used these institutions in the past to further their business and political interests. It has always been a US citizen who has been the President of the World Bank and the practically US enjoys veto power at the World Bank.

It has been said that the United States has viewed all multilateral organizations, including the World Bank, as instruments of foreign policy to be used for specific U.S. aims and objectives.

There are a number of well-documented instances where the US has used these institutions to suit their political interests. Significant among them are Nicaragua, Guatemala, Yugoslavia, Chile and Vietnam between the 1950s and ’80s. They are well documented in an article titled Domination of the United States on the World Bank. The one on Chile is telling:

After the election of Salvador Allende in 1969 and the government’s setting up of the Popular Unity, the Bank, under US pressure, suspended its loans to Chile from 1970 to 1973. The Chilean case shows that there can be a contradiction between the judgment of the Bank and the position of the US government, the latter finally getting the Bank to modify its position. Although the Bank’s management considered that Chile fulfilled the conditions to receive loans, the US government made sure that no loan was granted to the Salvador Allende government. Catherine Gwin summarizes this emblematic case as follows: The United States pressured the Bank not to lend to the Allende government after the nationalization of Chile’s copper mines. Despite the pressure, the Bank sent a mission to Santiago (having determined that Chile was in compliance with Bank rules requiring that for lending to resume after nationalization, the procedure for compensation had to be underway). Robert McNamara subsequently met with Allende to indicate that the Bank was prepared to make new loans contingent upon government commitments to reform the economy. But the Bank and the Allende regime could not come to terms on the conditions for a loan. Throughout the period of the Allende regime, Chile received no new loans. Shortly after Allende’s assassination in 1973 during a coup that brought General Pinochet’s military junta to power, the Bank resumed lending, providing a fifteen-year credit for copper mine development. (…) The suspension of lending in 1970-73 was cited in the 1982 U.S. Treasury report as a significant example of the successful exercise of U.S. influence on the Bank and although the Bank reached an agreement in principle on new lending in June 1973, the loan proposals were not formally considered by the board until after the September coup that brought General Pinochet to power.

As a complement to this information, there is a document conserved in the archives of the World Bank, in which the Chilean government, on the occasion of a meeting of the Bank in September 1972, protested against the suspension of loans and pointed out that precisely-defined projects had already been submitted to the Bank. Under pressure from the US, the Bank took no action as long as Allende was in power. Several internal working documents of the Bank critically refer back to the Bank’s policies towards Chile under Allende and under Pinochet).

Some twelve years later, when the atrocities committed by the Augusto Pinochet regime were incurring wide protests in the US, and even within Congress, the US government asked the Bank to delay a discussion on granting loans to Chile in order to avoid opposition in Congress. This request was rejected by the President of the Bank, Barber Conable, in a letter addressed to James Baker, Secretary of the Treasury, on October 29, 1986. One can deduce that the request of the US government was simply a lip service to public opinion, designed to depict the government as being sensitive to expressed democratic concerns, while remaining fully aware that, in a well-rehearsed distribution of roles, the president of the Bank would keep to the political course recommended by the government. It was a question of pleasing everyone.

With the latest lending of $10 bn to Ecuador by IMF, World Bank and other intuitions, rejecting asylum to Assange, the subsequent arrest yesterday and the possible extradition to US, where he will be tried for exposing the gross violations committed by them, one is sure that as long as functioning of these institutions are concerned, they still been used by powerful countries like the US for their narrow political interests as in the ’60s and ’70s despite tall talks about transparency and accountability. That is worrisome.

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