Edward Snowden has uncovered fundamental flaws in Ecuador's foreign policy and international relations. The ongoing saga has angered great governments, started a global manhunt, and divided allies. Hollywood could have scripted this — a sequel to the Assange debacle, a young woman's broken heart, questionable ethics, and dubious convictions. Ecuador is the cinema villain in a black hat, a clumsy diplomatic corps left hanging.
Many of our political scientists, journalists, masters students, and deep thinkers are left embarrassed by the role that Ecuador is playing. How can it be the case that an uncharismatic and dull interviewer, wanted for sexual crimes in Europe yet hiding behind a façade of being a global champion of freedom of information, seems to be calling the shots and running the show in terms of Ecuador's foreign policy? Perhaps the one favour Assange has done us is to demonstrate how dysfunctional the channels of communication are between London, Quito, and Washington.
Snowden travelled from Hong Kong to Russia on the basis of safe passage issued by Ecuador's consul in London, yet Quito had no knowledge of this. It was apparently left to Assange to speak on behalf of the Ecuadorian government. President Rafael Correa, in his weekly broadcast, blamed the series of events partly on the fact that high-profile figures in the foreign ministry such as Nathaly Cely, Ecuadorian ambassador to the U.S., were on vacation in Italy. Correa mentioned the fact that “we looked a bit disorganized” but also insisted Ecuador did not want to be involved in the Snowden case. On June 21, our Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patiño mentioned the Snowden case, before Snowden requested asylum. To me that seems like getting into the Snowden affair without being asked to.
Ecuador looked to play a major role in a diplomatic crisis and made fools of ourselves in the process. Tuesday night's press briefing at the Foreign Ministry was the icing on the cake. The press corps gathered, anticipating big news about asylum and travel plans, but the "big disclosure" was an allegation of a microphone in our London embassy. Seasoned hacks looked bemused as the non-news was announced. The world is debating huge wire-tapping exposures in Brussels, Paris, Berlin, yet we were summoned to hear about one small microphone? We have to question the government's sense of priorities and proportionality.
Ecuador is showing signs of wanting to play with the big boys. So is an alliance with a media attention-seeker such as Assange and in a a delicate affair such as Snowde´s, really the best way to show the world that we are serious? The one thing we must thank Edward Snowden for is that his manhunt has exposed the inadequacy of Ecuador's foreign affairs machinery and caused embarrassment for Ecuador in the international arena.