Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has expelled a US official he accused of treating his nation "like a colony" after he allegedly linked financial aid with allowing Washington to choose the head of the country's counter-smuggling unit.
AFP - President Rafael Correa on Saturday ordered a US official expelled from Ecuador, accusing him of treating the country like a colony -- though US embassy officials said the diplomat left in January.
Speaking on his weekly radio and television program, Correa alleged the US official sought to link economic aid to allowing Washington to choose the head of the government's unit that counters smuggling.
Addressing Ecuador's foreign minister, Correa said: "Listen to me, give this gentleman, Armando Astorga, 48 hours to grab his suitcase and get out of the country! We are not going to accept anyone treating us like a colony!"
Correa read a letter he said was from Astorga announcing the end of US aid for the anti-contraband unit.
"Mr. Astorga, keep your dirty money, we don't need it, here we have sovereignty and dignity. Keep your 340,000 dollars! Insolent fool!"
However Astorga was no longer in Ecuador: he left in early January as part of the normal personnel rotation, US embassy spokeswoman Marta Youth told AFP. He had been in the country for two years.
Youth said the US government expects to discuss the case with Ecuadoran authorities this wee, but emphasized that Washington valued bilateral ties with Quito.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Fred Lash said he could not confirm if Ecuador had formally conveyed any expulsion order to the United States.
One source of friction between Quito and Washington is the use of the military air base in the coastal city of Manta, scheduled to close in November. The US air force flies airplanes on anti-drug operations out of the base.
Correa said that he would allow US Coast Guard airplanes to land in Ecuador -- a request made earlier by US ambassador Heather Hodges -- only "on one condition: that we be allowed to vet the pilots of those planes, so that they don't sneak criminals into the country."
Correa, a leftist critic of the United States who enjoys a 70 percent popularity rating, is running for a second four-year term as president in April elections.
Date created : 2009-02-08