WikiLeaks: Ecuador expels US ambassador


Quito : The Ecuadorian government announced Tuesday that US Ambassador Heather Hodges has been declared “persona non grata” and ordered to leave the country in response to comments in a leaked diplomatic cable about police corruption in Ecuador.

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The July 2009 cable was disseminated by WikiLeaks and published Monday by Spanish daily El Pais.

“We have asked (Hodges) to leave the country in the shortest possible time,” Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told a press conference in Quito.

He said that the decision “is in no way intended to affect relations with the United States”.

Patino called Hodges to his office Monday to ask for an explanation regarding the cable, but the diplomat responded that the documents had been stolen and that neither she nor her government would make any comment on the matter.

The expulsion “is directed at an official who (sent) a cable of that nature and who afterwards gave no clarification”, the Ecuadorian minister said.

Patino said that Ecuador will not call its ambassador in Washington home for consultations because its reaction is not directed against the US government “but rather against these cables that presumably have been signed by the ambassador”.

“Corruption among Ecuadorian National Police (ENP) officers is widespread and well-known,” according to a July 2009 report to the State Department from the US Embassy in Quito.

The document says that Jaime Hurtado, who commanded the ENP from April 2008 to June 2009, “used his positions to extort bribes, facilitate human trafficking, misappropriate public funds, obstruct investigations and prosecutions of corrupt colleagues, and engage in other corrupt acts for personal enrichment”.

The cable also takes a swipe at Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for deciding to promote Hurtado to ENP chief.

“Hurtado’s corrupt activities were so widely known within the upper ranks of the ENP that some embassy officials believe that President Correa must have been aware of them when he made the appointment. These observers believe that Correa may have wanted to have an ENP chief whom he could easily manipulate,” the message says.

In an interview with EFE, Patino called that statement “absolutely irresponsible” and “incorrect”.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable. Our government cannot accept this type of information, which was given by the ambassador in our country,” Patino said.