US expels Ecuadorean ambassador in tit-for-tat move

Last Updated: Friday, April 8, 2011 - 16:07

Washington: The United States on Thursday ordered Ecuador`s ambassador to leave and scrapped a round of talks to retaliate for the expulsion of its envoy in Quito over US diplomatic cables alleging police corruption.

While saying the United States wanted a positive relationship with Ecuador, an OPEC member, the State Department said Quito`s "unjustified" expulsion of US Ambassador Heather Hodges would have to be factored into future relations.

Ecuador said the US move was expected and it suggested it would take no action to escalate the dispute.

The Andean nation demanded on Tuesday that Hodges leave, in a dispute over US diplomatic cables reporting alleged police corruption that were released by WikiLeaks.
Quito has said cables signed by Hodges` office suggested senior Ecuadorean police commanders were aware of corrupt practices in the force and that one US Embassy official believed the office of President Rafael Correa also knew.

s
Ecuador is the third Latin American country whose left-wing government has expelled a US envoy in recent years. In 2008, Bolivia kicked out Washington`s ambassador, saying he incited violent protests. A day later, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez followed suit, citing solidarity with Bolivia.

"The unjustified action of the Ecuadorean government to declare Ambassador Hodges persona non grata left us no other option than this reciprocal action," State Department spokesman Charles Luoma-Overstreet said.

Ecuadorean Ambassador Luis Gallegos was summoned to the State Department on Thursday morning and informed of the US decision to declare him persona non grata, requiring him to leave the country as soon as possible, the spokesman added.

`Regrettable and unwarranted`

"The United States is interested in a positive relationship with Ecuador but the regrettable and unwarranted decision to declare Ambassador Hodges persona non grata will have to be taken into account going forward," he said.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Thursday he hoped his country would continue having "warm relations" with the United States despite Gallegos` expulsion.

"This diplomatic reaction is normal, and expected. ... They have said they regret having to take this decision, which means it`s possible we`ll be able to maintain the warm relations we`ve been having," he told reporters.

Luoma-Overstreet said the United States had suspended bilateral talks scheduled to take place in June.

The formal bilateral dialogue was launched in November 2008 and focused initially on cooperation in economic development, poverty reduction, trade and investment and migration issues. It has since expanded to cover security-related issues.

Steve Johnson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank said he did not expect further retaliation but suggested the dispute may make the renewal of trade preferences for Ecuador harder until relations improve.

"The timing (for renewing the trade preferences) would be better after a restoration of ambassadors," he said.

Ecuador exports hundreds of products to the United States duty-free under the Andean Trade Preferences Act, a US program aimed at reducing illegal drug production in the region by creating other job opportunities.

The renewal of the Andean Trade Preferences Act, which expired in February, is pending approval by the US Congress.

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, April 8, 2011 - 16:07

More from zeenews

 
comments powered by Disqus