Ecuador Expels Pentagon Group Attached to U.S. Embassy

By Mercedes Alvaro, Robert Kozak, and Ryan Dube

COA’s Eric Farnsworth comments on Ecuador’s expulsion of U.S. Defense Department employees attached to the U.S. Embassy in Quito.

QUITO, Ecuador—Ecuador has ordered 20 U.S. Defense Department employees attached to the U.S. Embassy in Quito to leave the country next week, U.S. officials confirmed, further straining an already rocky relationship between President Rafael Correa and the Obama administration.

The Ecuadorean government made the request on April 7, asking the U.S. embassy in Ecuador to end the activities of the Security Cooperation Office by Wednesday, said Jeffrey Weinshenker, an embassy spokesman. He said that the civilian and military workers had been mainly engaged in joint programs with Ecuador to fight human smuggling and the drug trade....

Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas policy group in Washington, said the number of embassy officials Ecuador ordered to leave is noteworthy. "In the past, it has been limited to kicking out an attaché or a couple of officials but this is clearly designed to get attention," Mr. Farnsworth said. "There will have to be a tit-for-tat retaliation. There will have to be some kind of response."

The State Department didn't comment on whether it would reciprocate.

The government's expulsion move against U.S. personnel isn't the first since Mr. Correa took office in 2007. In 2009, he kicked out two top U.S. diplomats, accusing them of treating Ecuador as if it was a U.S. colony. That year, Ecuador also refused to renew Washington's lease on the Manta air base, where U.S. aircraft used for antidrug operations were stationed....

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