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US Relations With Correa

Quito and Washington have had tense relations since the arrival of President Correa to power in 2007, due to his anti-imperialist policies. Correa, a leftist economist who championed the so-called “Citizen’s Revolution” since taking office as president, claimed that conservative US politics under George W. Bush offered a boon to the socialist Pink Tide sweeping South America at the time.

Inaugurated in January 2007, Rafael Correa is the first president since the 1979 return to democracy to enjoy popularity in all regions of the country and among a broad array of class and demographic groups. Correa's Proud and Sovereign Fatherland (PAIS) Alliance is founded on its concept of 21st Century Socialism. He is a nationalist first, and a leftist second. He chafes at Ecuador's traditional dependency on the U.S., but is not avowedly anti-American (he and other close family members have lived in the U.S. and he expresses a genuine affinity for many aspects of U.S. society).

In his book, "Ecuador In the Sights: The WikiLeaks Revelations and the Conspiracy Against the Government of Rafael Correa," released in February 2017 in Quito, Norwegian journalist Eirik Vold detailed attempts by the U.S. government to topple Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and derail his Citizens' Revolution. "Correa was not about to let Washington maintain its dominance through financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund," Vold told the Andes press agency in explaining the motivation behind years of U.S. efforts to undermine the Ecuadorean president.

The book was largely based on the "Cablegate" documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010, including thousands of secret documents sent from the U.S. Embassy in Quito and the U.S. consulate in Guayaquil. "There is direct U.S. interference in Ecuador," Vold told El Telegrafo, adding that "documents show a close relationship between several figures of Ecuadorean political life, the financial sector, and the United States Embassy."

Vold outlines how the U.S. looked to thwart Correa from the very beginning, trying to directly prevent his election out of fear of losing the U.S. military base in Manta, the base of CIA operations in the region, as well as control over the U.S. oil company Occidental Petroleum Corp. After his 2006 election, Correa nationalized the oil company and closed the U.S. base in Manta.

In 2007, during Correa's first year in office, his government had continued - and even improved - bilateral cooperation (asking only for tweaks in the exchange of diplomatic notes on Military Group activities to show greater respect for Ecuadorian sovereignty). His actions were generally pragmatic that year, such as paying the debt. Although he occasionally took a swipe at us (e.g., when TSA searched him at Miami Airport), Correa did not use the U.S. as his regular whipping boy, instead lashing out against the traditional domestic political parties, bankers and other economic elite, and the media. In the foreign policy arena, while Correa clearly wished to reduce dependence on the U.S., he appeared during his first year in office to want to cultivate good relations with countries across the political spectrum.

The US moved into Correa's crosshairs after Washington defended Colombia's March 1, 2008 incursion into Ecuador, which prompted Correa to allege participation by the United States and make his first call for an Organization of Latin American States. The low point of the period was in early April 2008 when Correa charged that the CIA had taken over Ecuadorian intelligence services and suggested the CIA might be out to kill him.

Ecuador and the U.S. agreed in 1999 to a 10-year arrangement whereby US military surveillance aircraft could use the airbase at Manta, Ecuador, as a Forward Operating Location (FOL) to detect drug-trafficking flights and drug-laden fishing vessels in the region. The Ecuadorian Government informed the United States in July 2008 that it would not renew the lease for the Forward Operating Location when it expired in November 2009. The US ceased these counternarcotics flights in July and departed the FOL in September 2009.

The U.S. launched a Bilateral Dialogue with Ecuador in November 2008, during which cooperation in human development and poverty reduction, economic development, commerce and investment, and migratory issues was discussed. The second plenary meeting, along with a meeting of the Ecuador-United States Trade and Investment Council, took place in November 2009, and included a discussion of security-related issues, in addition to continuing initiatives begun in the first plenary meeting.

By early 2009 President Correa had adopted an increasingly leftist, anti-American posture, apparently unconcerned that his actions would result in frayed ties with the United States. These moves may be aimed at countering criticism from far left elites and undercutting prospects for a more radical presidential candidate (e.g., former Constituent Assembly president Alberto Acosta). Visiting Havana in January 2009, Correa demanded that the "Empire" end its "blockade" of Cuba, calling U.S. policy absurd. He accused the "Empire" of ethnocide (apparently meaning destruction of a people's culture). He called for an Organization of Latin American States that would include Cuba and exclude the US.

In February 2009, the Government of Ecuador expelled two U.S. Embassy officials who administered U.S. assistance to specialized police units. Ecuadoran President Correa insisted that the U.S. Embassy officials had offended Ecuador with "foul practices of agencies and departments that contradicted the policy stated by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton." He described Obama/Clinton policy as one of "peace, reconciliation, consensus, and respect for the self-determination and especially sovereignty of the peoples of the world."

A Department of State spokesperson rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing by Embassy staff. Correa's continued condemnation of U.S. Embassy actions, combined with a lack of US response since the Department statement on February 19, led many Ecuadorians to conclude that U.S. Embassy officials were caught doing wrong and deserved expulsion. On April 5, 2011, the Government of Ecuador declared the United States Ambassador to Ecuador, Heather M. Hodges, persona non grata under Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

On April 7, the U.S. Government took reciprocal action, informing Ecuador's Ambassador to the United States, Luis Benigno Gallegos Chiriboga, of the decision to declare him persona non grata under Article 9(1) of the Vienna Convention. The United States and Ecuador maintained relations at the Charge d'Affaires level for the time being.

Correa's inauguration speech 12 August 2009 broke no new ground in sending mixed signals about his intended relationship with the U.S. On the one hand, he mentioned the U.S. as an example of a country with which Ecuador sustained an ongoing bilateral agenda for cooperation, and emphasized the need for mutual respect between the countries. On the other hand, his speeches throughout the day were peppered with words of mistrust and negative references to the U.S. and U.S. interests.

President Correa's inauguration took place on 10 August 2010, as the government had desired, on the same date that Ecuadorians celebrated the 200th anniversary of Ecuador's First Call for Independence. Correa made a point of celebrating the triumph of his citizen revolution with the common people of Ecuador by hosting an event for them at a soccer stadium, with performances by popular entertainers and political speeches. Most of the cabinet was in attendance, as well as Presidents Chavez, Zelaya, and Raul Castro. Correa referred to what he termed imperialism, saying that U.S. bases in Colombia were a provocation and that if war was wanted, the countries of Latin America would be ready and united.

Correa's speech was not lacking in negative references to the U.S. and what he alleged were imperialistic U.S. interests. He touched on the U.S. while speaking about economic issues, but his remarks became sharper when he addressed the Ecuador-Colombia border conflict and the U.S. fight against narco-trafficking. Correa stated, "I hope that the installation of military bases on Colombia soil does not propose to strengthen the war-prone policy of our neighbor government, and combat, not narco-trafficking, but the insurgent governments of our American continent." He pointed to what he called a double standard because Colombia was arguing that U.S. access to bases in Colombia was strictly a Colombian affair, while nuclear programs (presumably meaning Iran's) that were considered hostile to "certain centers of power" were treated as an issue of global concern.

Referring to the U.S. Forward Operating Location (FOL) in Manta, Ecuador, Correa went on to suggest that the United States' true motives were being hidden: "A few days ago, the last foreign soldier that was in our territory went back to his country, and we had the satisfaction of announcing to Ecuadorians that we had recovered our territorial sovereignty, which in a moment of surrender was mutilated in favor of another government, whose goals are not necessarily those advocated in public."

On April 26, 2012, the United States Senate confirmed Adam E. Namm as U. S. Ambassador to Ecuador. Prior to his appointment as Ambassador, he was the Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Mr. Namm joined the Department of State in 1987. He has served in Islamabad, Bogota, Dhahran and Santo Domingo, and in various domestic assignments.

A Donald Trump presidency in the United States would be better for Latin America than if Hillary Clinton takes the top office, though the Democratic candidate would be a better option for the U.S. and the world as a whole, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa argued in an exclusive interview with teleSUR host Abby Martin 28 July 2016. “If you ask me what's better for Latin America, the answer I give may shock you—Trump,” Correa said during an interview with Martin in the Presidential Palace in Quito. “He is so basic that this will generate a reaction in Latin America which will build more support for progressive governments.”

“Something that has promoted what we call the conservative restoration—the return of the most backward forces and neoliberalism—is the fact that we have a U.S. government that has changed little in its policies and has done practically the same as it always has, but has a charming president in Obama,” Correa explained.

In July 2016 the U.S. Department of State included Ecuador in a list of 57 countries that did not meet some fiscal transparency levels established by the government of the United States. The Ecuadorean government struck, saying 29 July 2016 that the US did not have the right nor the mandate to criticize the internal policies of foreign countries. "The United States has no international or multilateral mandate … to go around judging countries, to play the role of judge of the world, no country has that right, there are international bodies for that," said Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Guillaume Long.

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Page last modified: 09-02-2017 19:35:39 ZULU