January 06, 2021
The government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador seems willing to carry his disgust at the outcome of the presidential election in the United States beyond the inauguration of Joe Biden.
Last Monday, Lopez Obrador received one of those springboard questions that abound in his morning lectures, in which the interlocutor asked him for his opinion on the rejection of a British judge of the United States request to extradite the internet activist Julian Assange.
—A year ago I quoted you from three WikiLeaks cables revealing dirty actions against you, when you were part of the opposition, and you came out in favor of a pardon for him (…) Do you reiterate your position on the matter, President?
“I am in favor of being pardoned,” he replied. Lopez Obrador. Not only that, I am going to ask the Secretary of Foreign Relations to do the corresponding procedures so that the United Kingdom government is asked the possibility that Mr. Assange be released and that Mexico offers him political asylum.
The statement was surprising because 1) the possibility had not been publicly discussed, 2) it was the result, by boat soon, of a question thrown at his conference, 3) it surely caused a sting in Washington, where Republicans and Democrats tend to agree on issues of national security, and 4) represents an intervention in the affairs of other countries, which Lopez Obrador it has repeatedly said that it should not be done.
Interest in the news lasted a few hours, then, yesterday, John Shipton, the father of Assange, signed a petition for him to receive asylum in New Zealand.
“Julian and his family have connections with New Zealand and New Zealanders, ”says the letter, released by a local television station. “New Zealand must step in where Australia and the UK have failed. Julian he needs asylum in New Zealand and he needs it now ”.
As far as it is known, there is no similar letter addressed to the Mexican government, in which Assange or your family apply for asylum. In accordance with international practice, this is the first step in granting it.
For this reason, it could be thought that the announcement by Mexico falls into the field of occurrences, which are ideas that have not been thought about much.
However, I doubt that the president has escaped Lopez Obrador the consequence that said decision may have in the field of relations with the United States, a few hours after the triumph of Biden in the elections of November 3 – which will happen today – and a few days after his inauguration in Washington.
While the British judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled against the extradition of Assange, did so for reasons of mental health of the accused and not to dismiss the accusations against the Australian: conspiracy to hack computer servers and divulge classified documents, as well as to reveal the identity of informants who worked for the intelligence services of the United States, putting in danger their lives.
Mexico went through the process without being summoned. Everything seems to indicate that the 18 charges against Assange will remain, so that, in the hypothetical case that the United Kingdom agrees to deliver the accused to Mexico as an asylee, our country would still have to deal with the extradition treaty that exists with the United States, which, like all treaties international, has an almost constitutional hierarchy.
With Donald Trump, President Lopez Obrador has always bet to avoid conflict. With Joe Biden, seems to be willing to create it. Or, at least, to measure the next US president, to see how he responds. Let’s not forget that Mexico was one of the last governments to congratulate Biden for his electoral victory, something that was justified by the principle of non-intervention, which is now forgotten in the case Assange.
It is unthinkable that the announcement of Lopez Obrador to offer asylum to someone who has violated United States national security laws – regardless of his reasons for doing so – is not going to be taken with disgust in Washington, especially with the signal that the president-elect sent when proposing as next secretary of state to Antony Blink, an openly interventionist man.
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