Now that the standoff between Julian Assange and British police at the Ecuadorian embassy has calmed down, people are starting to gather in the streets of Quito to welcome the WikiLeaks founder. They could be waiting a while.
We're not talking about thousands of people rallying for Assange in Ecuador. According to a fresh dispatch in The New York Times, "a handful of small rallies" anticipating Assange's arrival have popped up in Ecuador's capital recently. "Last Sunday, a half-dozen activists showed up at the main square in Quito, Independence Plaza," the report reads, "taking turns holding up a large banner that said 'Welcome Assange' and another one calling for a ban on bullfighting." That welcome sign is a bit premature, though. Assange himself admitted in an interview a couple of weeks ago at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he's been holed up for nearly two months, that he doesn't think the situation won't be resolved for six months or a year. That's a lot of time jogging on a treadmill in front of a sun lamp.
The country isn't just excited about welcoming a maybe-rapist, definitely slightly crazy hacker onto their soil. "[Assange] is an icon who has made Ecuador be seen not just as a small country but as something important," one student told The Times as he took a couple of Assange posters from a demonstration in Quito. Another student said that Assange was welcome to sleep on the couch in his two-bedroom apartment.
Then again, there's the flip side to that which is the believe that this the invitation to grant Assange asylum is just a political trick by Ecuador's president Rafael Correa. "I think [Correa] did it to get a political advantage, to increase his popularity," a small business owner said. "This president is always trying to draw attention to himself." (Sound like somebody you know?)
No matter what happens this is a unique moment for Ecuador. For the poor South American country that's probably better known for its name than anything else, there's the hope of soon being home to an international celebrity, however flawed or wanted by the law he may be. They're already talking about him like he's some sort of demigod. Scrawled in spray paint on the walls around Quito is the simple premonition: "Assange viene…" or, "Assange is coming."