By Arthur Shaw

Latin America and the Caribbean have a long history of cases in which a state either gave or withheld safe passage — that is, an opportunity for an individual or group of individuals to leave without peril a country in which the state or another force is intent on punishing the individual(s) in some way for some reason.

Julian Assange wants an opportunity to leave the UK without exposure to peril. He is currently in Ecuador’s embassy. Ecuador has granted him asylum. The UK is considering whether to extradite him to Sweden on charges of sexual misconduct. Some threats have been made to storm the Ecuadoran embassy and nab him in violation of international law. Should he be extradited to Sweden, many people have speculated he could be taken to the U.S. where he could be tried on espionage charges and face execution or some other harsh sentence.

There are two or three cases about safe passage in Latin America and the Caribbean that really stand out.

In August 1978, nineteen Sandinista revolutionaries shook the world when they captured the whole Nicaraguan legislature and promised to return the legislature to the Somoza dictatorship only if Somoza did three things — freed about 15 Sandinistas prisoners of war, paid the Sandinistas $500,000 as ransom for the return of the legislature, and gave all 34 Sandinistas safe passage to Cuba. To get his legislature back, Somoza, the Nicaraguan dictator, paid the ransom and gave safe passage to Cuba. The 1978 capture of the Nicaraguan legislature by the glorious Sandinistas was so dramatic and so overwhelming, it’s hard to compare the heroic and towering capture of legislature with the adventures of Julian Assange.
Fortunately, the second instance is not so overwhelming; thus, our second instance dealing with safe passage may throw some light on the Assange case.

On January 27, 2010, CNN News, one of the most powerful outlets of the bourgeois media, reported:
“Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has left his temporary home at the Brazilian Embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and is en route to the Dominican Republic, local media reported Wednesday. A deal reached last week with Honduran President-elect Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo granted Zelaya safe passage to the island nation, resolving a diplomatic impasse that kept him trapped in Honduras.”

In June 2009, the Honduran military officers dragged Honduran President Manuel Zelaya out of his bed. The president had nothing on but his cotton pajamas. The officers drove the president to the Tegucigalpa airport and literally threw the president on the plane which was bound for Costa Rica. On September 2009, the president returned to Honduras secretly and sought political asylum or diplomatic immunity in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. In January 2010 he left Honduras with a promise of safe passage for exile in the Dominican Republic.

So, it took Zelaya about five months — from September 2009 to January 2010 — to get safe passage out of Honduras.

Assange will be lucky if he can get out of the UK with safe passage in only five months.


There are at least four eerie factual and conceptual similarities between the Zelaya and Assange struggles.

First, safe passage from a diplomatic mission to an airport is an issue in both cases — Zelaya got safe passage to the Dominican Republic and Assange seeks safe passage to Ecuador.

Second, both the Assange and Zelaya cases deal with freedom of expression — Zelaya proposed to conduct a non-binding opinion poll of the Honduran population on the question of constitutional reform and Assange released documents showing the dirty and rotten games played by US imperialists to undermine the sovereignty of other countries

Third, in both cases, the bourgeois and imperialist regime in Washington is the real power behind the scenes that call the shots for its slave states — e.g., President Obama tells the governments of the UK, Sweden, Australia, and Honduras what he wants.

Fourth, in both cases, a public figure [Zelaya and Assange] seeks political asylum or diplomatic immunity in a diplomatic mission — e.g., respectively the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa and Ecuador’s embassy in London.

Now, let’s look at the difference between the Zelaya and Assange cases.

Zelaya was a citizen of Honduras and Assange isn’t a citizen of the UK. This difference however seems to me to be more contingent than necessary.

The central difference between the two cases is that Assange is “rumored” [no formal charges have been filed against him] to have committed a criminal act involving two women in Sweden and Zelaya was accused in a civil lawsuit of engaging in a type of speech that was allegedly prohibited by the Honduran Constitution. In other words, the alleged act relative to Assange was criminal in nature and the act formally alleged against Zelaya was merely unconstitutional.

There is another case which we must talk about, even though the Sandinistas and Zeyala cases are lot more interesting. The third case is called the Asylum Case. The case arose when a Peruvian military leader, Victor Raul Haya de la Torre, took refuge in the Colombian embassy in Lima after leading an unsuccessful coup attempt in early 1948. Elsewhere in the world, this would have resulted in a very long stay for Haya de la Torre. For while all nations [except the UK] respect the inviolability of foreign embassy premises, there is certainly no rule requiring a host State [say, the UK] to allow a political refugee [say, Assange] safe passage out of the embassy, out of the country, and to the asylum state. Nowhere, that is, except Latin America, where there evolved a regional custom of diplomatic asylum.

In other words, Latin America, in the early 1950s, introduced and developed the law of diplomatic asylum and the principle is still largely a regional rule that is unheard of in some other parts of the world. Today, Latin American embassies in Latin America are more like hotels than diplomatic missions. Ecuador is extending the application of the principle of diplomatic asylum to the UK. To understand the difference between “inviolability of foreign embassy premises” and “diplomatic asylum,” we must grasp what safe passage is because the concept of “inviolability of foreign embassy premises” doesn’t at all imply safe passage out of the country.


On August 20, 2010, Swedish police began their investigation into reports of a rape and sexual assault allegedly committed by Julian Assange in separate sexual encounters involving two different women.
The crux of the extradition issue is not whether the sex was consensual or coerced, but whether Assange contrived to have sex with the two women without using a condom. For example, Miss A [the court name for one of the two women] told Swedish police that at “some stage” of the sexual encounter between Assange and herself, Assange “did something” that caused the condom to rip. She argues that whatever Assange did to cause the rip in the condom constitutes rape or at least a sexual assault. Assange replies he was unaware of any rip in the condom and Miss A never mentioned a rip during the seven days in August 2010 when he slept with Miss A.

Assange has described all the sexual encounters as consensual and statements by the two women themselves confirm that the encounters at least started as such. The local arrest warrant for Assange was canceled on August 21, 2010 by one of Stockholm’s Chief Prosecutors, Eva Finne, and the investigation was downgraded to only cover lesser allegations. Finné said in a statement to the press: “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” The local warrant was subsequently re-issued by another Swedish Chief Prosecutor Marianne Ny on September 1, 2010 who said the allegations could be classified or construed as rape after all, because of the “rip.” in the condom.

In December 2010, Assange, then in the UK, learned that Swedish authorities had issued a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) to extradite him to Sweden for questioning related to allegations by the two women [that is, Miss A and Miss W] dealing mostly with the absence or presence of condoms during his 7-day relationship with Miss A and his 6-day relationship with Miss W.

Miss W told the Swedish police that she was “asleep” during one instance when she had sex with Assange. Realizing that this allegation left her position untenable, Miss W changed her statement saying she was only “half asleep.” According to Miss W, she asked Assange whether he had sex with her without a condom while she slept. Assange denies that this conversation between him and Miss W ever took place.

Emails to and statements from friends of two the women to the Swedish police later disclosed that both women talked about getting cash from tabloids for publication rights. Further, friends of the two women say the women were jealous of each other and both women felt Assange had dumped one for the other. Both wanted revenge, not for the rip in the condom, but for being dumped and two-timed.

Attorneys for Assange in Sweden say that the Swedish Chief Prosecutor presiding over the case has evidence that shows the two women were part of a plot to entrap or set up Assange. Assange’s attorneys have seen some of the evidence but the Court refuses to allow them to take notes or make copies.

The whole extradition phase of the case is a sham and a scam.

Irrefutable evidence was leaked by WikiLeaks on the existence of a secret US grand jury with a secret US indictment against Assange. Later, a media organization received declassified diplomatic cables that confirm a secret indictment against Assange exists. Shockingly, the documents go on to state that the Australian government has no objection to an extradition of Assange to the United States.

Some crackpot and prominent leaders of US imperialism have publicly advocated that Assange be assassinated — not judicially executed, but assassinated! Again, these are men and women at the top of the imperial hierarchy in the USA.

The chief role that these proposed extraditions to Sweden and the USA play is to distract public attention from the real issues of free speech, whistle-blowing, free press, and freedom of information for the masses which the Assange case poses. Imperialism doesn’t want the masses to see clearly the rotting of democratic rights of individuals and of certain news organizations which are not recognized members of the bourgeois media.

To a big degree, the question of safe passage for Assange from the embassy to the London airport and from the airport to Ecuador has recently supplanted extradition as the propaganda focus of the case. As long as the focus remains on these rips in condoms and falling asleep while having sex, bourgeois states and the bourgeois media are likely to prevail in this struggle. Whether to give or withhold safe passage is a matter that lies within the discretion of the bourgeois regime in the UK. This regime shows some sensitivity to public opinion for otherwise it wouldn’t have apparently backed off of its threat to storm the embassy or it would have itself handed Assange over to US imperialists without wasting time on Swedish stooges. This means the UK regime is taking the rap like a fool for the arrogance of the imperialist regime in Washington, DC. Safe passage offers not only Assange but also the UK a way out of this nasty predicament. This predicament of the UK was supposed to be over in early July or August at the latest. But now that Assange has both political asylum and refuge in the embassy, the predicament can go on and on. No peace and quiet.


Ecuador may be an underrated player in this controversy. Ecuador told the UK regime to take its threat to raid the embassy and shove it. The UK hasn’t shoved it nor has the UK raided the embassy. The US imperialists were no help, at all, in straightening out the dispute between UK and Ecuador.

The UK does not buy the USA line that the dispute is a bilateral affair between UK and Ecuador; therefore, ALBA, UNASUR, and OAS shouldn’t stick their nose in it. Ecuadorian Pres. Rafael Correa asks how can the dispute be bilateral when the world recognizes Sweden, UK, Ecuador, and USA as participants in the dispute. Since Assange is an Australian journalist and citizen, Australia is also a party in the controversy. Further, “the inviolability of diplomatic missions is principle that affects all countries,” Pres. Correa argues.

Significantly, Correa denies that Assange or Ecuador are blocking the enforcement of Swedish law relative to the investigation of the allegations of the two women [Miss A and Miss W] against Assange. On the contrary, Correa points out that conditions have been created in Ecuador’s Embassy in London for Assange to testify on alleged sex crimes and cooperate in the taking of any physical tests that Swedish authorities may wish to administer. What’s more, Ecuador is willing to make these accommodations for Swedish law enforcement, even though no formal criminal charges have been filed against Assange, even in Sweden.

Operating through proxies, Correa has carefully arranged a showdown between himself and US Pres. Barack Obama at the Friday Aug. 24 meeting of foreign ministers at OAS offices in Washington. Present indications look like Correa will get at least 23 votes of member states and Obama will get, at most, three votes, including the US vote. With the extradition proceedings, US imperialists tried to corner Assange like a rat. But now, US imperialism is the rat in the corner. Look at how Correa put it together. He first got ALBA states to vote his way. So, ALBA members can’t change their vote on Aug. 24. Using the momentum from the ALBA vote, he then got UNASUR to vote his way. So, UNASUR is fixed, too. Now, Correa is going after the OAS, an infamous temple for the glorification of US imperialism.

I’ll bet ya, he’s gonna win.

Correa sees the Assange struggle for safe passage can become a lot bigger than most other struggles. What the struggle for safe passage for this Australian journalist needs is an organizational force with powerful allies. Correa is tough and smart.


At present, there seems to be three likely outcomes for the situation between Assange and the UK:

(1) Safe passage for Assange from Ecuador’s Embassy to the airport and from the airport to Ecuador.

(2) Continued confinement of Assange to the premises of Ecuador’s Embassy in London.

(3) The extradition of Assange to Sweden under the terms of a deal acceptable to all three of the principal parties — the UK, Assange and Ecuador.

It seems to me that the possible outcome that is mostly likely to become reality is (1), that is, safe passage for Assange.

No. (1) — that is, safe passage — is the most likely outcome because the people of the world who still believe that freedom of expression is something worth fighting for will continue to demand that Assange, a champion of the free press, be set free. Without the will of the democratic masses on his side, No. 1 — that is, safe passage for Assange — will be significantly less likely as an outcome. At this point, we can’t say who will be the chief organizational expressions of the will of democratic masses. It could be an element within WikiLeaks or Ecuadorian revolutionaries or human rights activists or the glorious Australian patriots, etc. Who knows?

I believe the most likely candidate for the organizational role are Australian patriots. The government of Australia is nothing but a slave state of US imperialists. But the mass of the people of Australia are not as submissive to US imperialists as the worthless regime that rules Australia.

The government of Australia is quintessentially the running dog of imperialism. Everywhere US imperialists go, the Australian running dog follows. This running dog is always ready to bite. It will bite its own people or even bite itself, if the imperial master gives the order to bite.

One gets the impression that the bourgeois regime in Australia would be enraged and outraged if the UK gave Assange safe passage.


Why should the democratic masses everywhere be concerned about Assange?

It seems that the underlying or ultimate issue in the Assange case is whether or not an outfit like WikiLeaks [a mere news organization] that is not a part of the bourgeois media enjoys constitutional protection from government censorship and government persecution for exposing wrongs and injustices committed by the bourgeois state.

If the answer is yes, then two consequences follow. First, new organizations would have a protected right to freedom of expression and the democratic masses have a corresponding and protected right to freedom of information that is not supplied by the various sectors of the bourgeois media.

If the answer is no, then only the worthless and craven bourgeois media will be more or less unmolested by censorship and persecution by the bourgeois state for the publication of information which the government wants to stay secret.

Again, if the answer is no, certain journalists lose their right to express news that is most deserving of expression and the masses lose their right to be informed.

Without freedom of expression, there is no freedom of information for the people.

The foul and rotten coverage of the Assange story in most of the bourgeois media is appalling to people of conscience. For the most part, this coverage in the capitalist press is slanted and inflammatory against Assange, against the facts and against logic. On the other hand, the situation involving Assange represents a pivotal point at which working people can unite and stand up for their rights to information about how governments are conducting the people’s business.