The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ecuador expels second U.S. diplomat this month

By Jose Llangari

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador's President Rafael Correa expelled on Wednesday a second U.S. diplomat this month in a dispute over an aid program, fueling tensions between the OPEC member and its most important trade partner during his re-election campaign.

Ecuador said the diplomat -- like the previous ejected official -- meddled with police officer appointments in a program receiving U.S. aid, but Washington rejected the accusation.

"We are declaring Mr. Mark Sullivan persona-non-grata, he is the first secretary of the embassy and we are giving him 48 hours to leave the country," Foreign Affairs Minister Fander Falconi told reporters.

The U.S. State Department called the expulsion unjustified and said it would "respond as appropriate."

After coming to office in 2007, Correa told the United States it would have to stop using an Ecuadorean air base for anti-drugs surveillance when its lease ends this year.

But otherwise, the popular leftist had generally kept good ties with the United States even as his socialist allies in Bolivia and Venezuela clashed with Washington, including expelling U.S. ambassadors.

Still, Correa went on the offensive this month, declaring he would not bow to pressure from the United States and has now raised complications in establishing his relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Campaigning for an April election, Correa has stressed his credentials as a leader who can stand up to foreign influence, whether from governments or multinational companies.

"We regret this decision by the government of Ecuador. We also reject any suggestion of wrongdoing by embassy staff," said State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid.

"Despite the government of Ecuador's unjustified actions we remain committed to working collaboratively with Ecuador to confront narcotics trafficking," he added.

Paulina Recalde, a pollster with Perfiles de Opinion in Quito, saw an electoral motive in the diplomatic move.

"This has a big political element as Correa reinforces his tough position that is very popular among the every day people in this country," she said. "But this could cost him greatly in the diplomatic field."

Economic troubles due to plummeting oil revenues and immigrants' remittances are starting to worry Ecuadoreans who lived through a crippling financial crisis in 1999 that left thousands without their bank deposits and jobs.

The United States is Ecuador's main trading partner and the destination for much of its oil and banana exports.

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