You think Ecuador welcomed Julian Assange because his work on WikiLeaks is so vital to democracy? Not at all: Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, granted asylum to Assange in order to settle an old score with Washington, writes Anita Isaacs in the New York Times. Tensions arose between the two countries in 2011, when news broke—on WikiLeaks—that America's ambassador had accused Correa of appointing a corrupt puppet of a police chief "whom he could easily manipulate."
So Ecuador expelled America's ambassador, and Washington returned the favor by kicking out Ecuador's. "While the two countries have new ambassadors in place, the wound remains raw," writes Isaacs. And the chance to make sure Assange didn't go to Sweden or the US "was simply too good to miss." What's more, Correa is vying for regional leadership at a time when Latin American countries are thumbing their noses at Washington over drug policies. "Thus [Correa's] decision ... enables Ecuador to seize the political limelight." (Read more Ecuador stories.)