QUITO, Ecuador — Some 50 protesters gathered outside the British Embassy here Sunday to protest against the UK in the continuing saga over Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who remains holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London after being denied safe passage to Quito by the British government.
“Assange, amigo, Ecuador esta contigo,” (“Assange, friend, Ecuador is with you”) they chanted in the center of the city as demonstrators spray-painted a sign that read “Death to imperialism.”
Read more: Assange asylum: What do Ecuadoreans think?
The tension has heightened over the past two weeks after Ecuador granted Assange asylum on Aug. 16. That followed Ecuador's alleging that the UK government threatened to storm the Ecuadorean Embassy in the wealthy area of Knightsbridge in London where the 41-year-old former computer hacker has taken refuge.
The UK authorities say they must extradite Assange to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over sex crime allegations.
Assange has denied the Swedish accusations and says they are just a strategy in place to force his extradition to the US where he will face charges for publishing secret US cables on WikiLeaks in 2010.
On Saturday, in his weekly television address, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa revealed that the British had backed down on their threat to enter the embassy, paving the way for negotiations between the two countries. On Sunday, London confirmed that it remains committed to a diplomatic solution.
Read more: UK-Ecuador stalemate over Assange closer to being broken
The slow breaking of the stalemate is unlikely to placate those on the ground outside the small British Embassy here.
“Great Britain has to respect other countries, big or small, because this is a civilized world,” said Ivan Sanchez, 43. “We're not living in barbarism. We're living in an era of civilization where everyone must respect human rights.”
The subject of the protests also took a broader tone, just as the rhetoric from Correa and his Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has in recent weeks.
“We are with [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez, with Correa, with Fidel [Castro, of Cuba],” was one chant, citing much of Latin America’s openly anti-American and anti-imperialist left.
“We're not a British colony,” said Patino angrily last week. “The colonial times are over.”
Latin American leaders have backed Ecuador. Argentina and Venezuela officials have used typical anti-colonial language.
While the protesters were not threatening to invade the British Embassy or drawing tear gas from the police gathered outside the premises, their continued presence tells of a bigger picture. Assange continues to reside in the London compound, himself surrounded by police as well as the trappings of what will no doubt be a challenging diplomatic process.