In Advance of VP Pence’s trip to Ecuador, Menendez Leads Letter Encouraging Advancement of Bilateral Relations and Expressing Concern About Continued Support for WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

In Advance of VP Pence’s trip to Ecuador, Menendez Leads Letter Encouraging Advancement of Bilateral Relations and Expressing Concern About Continued Support for WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

WASHINGTONU.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was joined by a group of nine of his democratic Senators today in sending a letter to Vice President Michael Pence encouraging him to continue building upon the important progress made in the U.S.-Ecuador bilateral relationship but also urging him to raise concerns with President Moreno about Ecuador’s support for Mr. Assange at a time when WikiLeaks continues its efforts to undermine democratic processes around the world.

“Over the last decade, the relationship between the United States and Ecuador was marked by unfortunate tensions. However, under President Lenin Moreno’s leadership, there is a unique opportunity to reverse this trend,” wrote the Senators.  “We believe your trip can help forge a new chapter in longstanding relations between the United States and Ecuador built on shared values, and address remaining challenges between our countries.”

Citing a declassified January 2017 report by the U.S. Intelligence Community that found Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) used WikiLeaks to release hacked information to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Senators expressed extreme concern about Ecuador continuing to provide asylum to WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange.

“As the United States is still seeking clarity about the full extent of Russian intervention in our elections and Russian interference in elections across the world, it is imperative that you raise U.S. concerns with President Moreno about Ecuador’s continued support for Mr. Assange at a time when WikiLeaks continues its efforts to undermine democratic processes globally,” concluded the Senators.

Joining Menendez in sending the letter were Senators: Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Col.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

  

June 27, 2018

 

The Honorable Michael Pence

Vice President of the United States of America

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. Vice President:

 

We write in advance of your visit to Ecuador to encourage you to continue building upon the important progress made in our bilateral relationship over the last year. We believe your trip can help forge a new chapter in longstanding relations between the United States and Ecuador built on shared values, and address remaining challenges between our countries.

Over the last decade, the relationship between the United States and Ecuador was marked by unfortunate tensions. However, under President Lenin Moreno’s leadership, there is a unique opportunity to reverse this trend. In the last two months alone, President Moreno’s Administration has signed two important agreements with the United States to improve cooperation to combat transnational criminal organizations and illicit trafficking.

Additionally, at a time when there is growing concern in the region about the link between indefinite re-election and authoritarianism, we commend President Moreno’s efforts to hold a referendum that allowed Ecuadoreans to reinstate presidential term limits. This development has important implications for Ecuador and is an invaluable precedent for the hemisphere.

We also welcome President Moreno’s intent to reform Ecuador’s Law of Communication and his statements in support of freedom of expression protected. We are hopeful that his administration will restore Ecuador’s historical commitment to the fundamental freedoms and democratic values as enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter and other international covenants, and we encourage you to use this visit to reaffirm our shared commitment to those values.

Despite these advances, we remain extremely concerned about Ecuador providing asylum to WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange since June 2012. As you are aware, in its declassified January 2017 report, the U.S. Intelligence Community assessed that Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) used WikiLeaks to release hacked information in order to influence from the 2016 U.S. presidential election. We are also deeply troubled by WikiLeaks interventions in the 2017 French presidential election and the 2017 Spanish referendum on Catalan independence.

During his tenure as Director of Central Intelligence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo characterized WikiLeaks as, “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” For these reasons, we were alarmed that the readout of your June 4, 2018 phone call with President Moreno made no mention of efforts by Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to interfere in the 2016 U.S. electoral process or the elections of some of our closest allies.

As the United States is still seeking clarity about the full extent of Russian intervention in our elections and Russian interference in elections across the world, it is imperative that you raise U.S. concerns with President Moreno about Ecuador’s continued support for Mr. Assange at a time when WikiLeaks continues its efforts to undermine democratic processes globally.

In closing, we ask that you convey our condolences to President Moreno for the deaths of the two journalists from the El Comercio newspaper and their driver, who were abducted in northern Ecuador by a dissident faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in March 2018. We stand behind the efforts of the U.S. Embassy in Quito to provide all relevant assistance to efforts to investigate this incident and address regional security challenges.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you to advance collaboration between the United States and Ecuador, and address enduring challenges to our national security.

Sincerely,

 

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