Monday, February 09, 2009

Ecuador aid suspended over American veto power

QUITO - Ecuador has summoned the US ambassador to express anger over a diplomat's letter saying Washington is suspending $340,000 in annual aid because it was not allowed to veto police appointments, the foreign minister says.

President Rafael Correa on Saturday ordered the expulsion of Armando Astorga, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement attache, who US Embassy officials say already left the country after completing his assignment.

On Monday, State Department officials in Washington declined to comment immediately on whether the US sought veto power over Ecuadorean officials, as Correa contends. US Embassy officials in Quito were not available.

An embassy representative previously said aid to anti-smuggling police was suspended in response to an Ecuadorean government policy, but did not elaborate.

Correa, a critic of US foreign policy in Latin America, said Astorga announced the aid suspension in a Jan. 8 letter that demanded the return of all donated equipment - including vehicles, furniture, cameras and phones.

Correa said the letter, addressed to Ecuador's police chief, also revealed that $160,000 in yearly aid to the Human Trafficking Unit was "being reconsidered."

Foreign Minister Fander Falconi met with US Ambassador Heather Hodges Sunday to formally lodge a complaint. The Ecuadorean government considers it "unacceptable" for US diplomats to play a role in appointing police positions, he said.

In a statement issued on Monday, he added that Quito intends to maintain respectful, cooperative ties with Washington.

- AP

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