Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Expulsions of U.S. diplomats by Ecuador raise alarms

The recent expulsions of two U.S. diplomats by Ecuador raises the rather distressing prospect of more tension between Washington and countries in South America. The U.S. State Department voiced strong objection and threatened retaliation after the expulsions this month of First Secretary Mark Sullivan and Department of Homeland Security attache Armando Astorga after Ecuador accused them of meddling in the country's internal affairs. The dispute involves U.S.-sponsored aid programs in Ecuador, and the accusations were denied by Washington, according to Cable News Network and the Reuters international news service. "The United States rejects any suggestion of wrongdoing by embassy staff," said Gordon Duguid, a State Department spokesman in Washington, according to CNN. Hopefully, the dispute is merely a misunderstanding, which is logical considering how ill-advised it would be for Ecuador to antagonize a country offering millions of dollars in aid. But it is too early in the Obama administration for the United States to insist that all of the untoward programs promulgated by the Bush administration have been ended. And the United States had better be careful of alienating its friends, of which Ecuador is one, in a region that already has virulently anti-U.S. governments in power in nearby Venezuela and Bolivia. The United States is Ecuador's main trading partner and imports much Ecuador's oil and banana.

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