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"The arrest of Assange is part of Lenin Moreno's agreement with the IMF," the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador Ricardo Patiño, said.
According to the former Minister of Foreign Affairs under Rafael Correa presidency, Ricardo Patiño, the current President of Ecuador Lenin Moreno turned on Julian Assange to improve relationships with the United States.
In an interview with Resumen del Sur outlet, Patiño claimed that Ecuador had agreed with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on three main issues: to adopt the U.S. position regarding Venezuela, to end South American economic integration, and to expel Assange from the Ecuadoran embassy in London in exchange of a "miserable loan from the International Monetary Fund."
Such U.S. sentiment was far from hidden during Pence's visit where he said: "Before your election, our nations had experienced 10 difficult years where our people always felt close, but our governments drifted apart," he said alongside Moreno in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, last June. "But over the past year, Mr. President, thanks to your leadership and the actions that you’ve taken have brought us closer together once again."
In March Ecuador received a $4.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, to which the U.S. is the largest contributor.
After Assange’s expulsion and arrest Thursday, Correa tweeted that Moreno was "the greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history."
Experts on U.S. policy echo Patiño's arguments regarding Assange's eventual arrest. “Assange impeded Moreno’s ability to seek technical assistance, international loans, and greater security and commercial cooperation with the United States,” John Polga-Hecimovich, an Ecuador expert at the U.S. Naval Academy, told Vox in a recent article.
The former top diplomat, who had also served as the country's defense minister, further argued that Assange's expulsion and arrest serve as a "smokescreen" to distract public attention from the INA Papers corruption scandal faced by President Moreno in which he is accused of having an offshore company, set up under his brother's name in 2012 when Moreno was vice president, where they kept millions of dollars, according to leaked documents.
On the issue of his candidacy in next presidential elections in Ecuador, the founder of the Citizen Revolution movement said several names are being considered for such a position "such as Paola Pabon, Gabriel Rivadeneira, and Pabel Muñoz but such a decision would be a collective one." He also confirmed that former President Rafael Correa would be the vice presidential candidate in any scenario.