We do not blame Amb. Nathalie Cely for defending her government, for that is an important part of any ambassador’s job. But in her efforts, she distorts our article and commits a number of important omissions and distortions.
Amb. Cely says that Ecuador is a peaceful country and by no means supports or facilitates any terrorist activity. First, we never said that the Ecuadoreans are not a peaceful people. We limited ourselves to pointing out just some of the actions of President Rafael Correa that clearly show that he is not a peaceful person, and that his actions, regardless of his intentions, have made Ecuador into a more dangerous place and a threat to United States’ foreign policy objectives, including abetting terrorism.
For example, President Correa has this week announced that he — and to this date he alone among the western hemisphere’s elected heads of state — will boycott the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, a regular meeting of the freely-elected presidents of western hemisphere nations. Correa cites one reason only for avoiding the meeting: The fact that the 53-year old totalitarian dictatorship of the Castro brothers in Cuba has been excluded from the meeting. Cuba has never been invited because its government is not a democracy, as required by the Summit’s rules.
In other words, Rafael Correa considers it more important to express solidarity with an unelected, one-party police state (the only legal party being the Communist Party of Cuba), than with the leaders of all the other nations of the hemisphere, who have confirmed their attendance at the Summit. Moreover, Cuba is on the list of the U.S. State Department’s State Sponsors of Terrorism. Thus, the leader of the peaceful Ecuadorean people clearly values his friendship with two bloodthirsty tyrants, the Castro brothers, who set up training camps for terrorists that committed atrocities in every country of this hemisphere for about 30 years, until their paymaster, the Soviet Union, ceased to exist. Apparently Correa does not care about the thousands of Cubans who have been executed by the Castros for the sole reason of wanting a peaceful, inclusive, free, and democratic Cuba.
Moreover, we don’t think that the actions and links that President Correa and his administration have established with countries such as Iran can be considered peaceful. In a previous letter to the editor published in the Miami Herald in response to our op-ed "Iran’s Stealth Financial Partners in Latin America", Amb. Cely said: "The items Ecuador trades with Iran, mostly bananas and flowers, are not subject to the sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union."
That statement is refuted by the words of her own colleague, the president of the state-owned oil company Petroecuador, Mario Calvopiña, who a few days ago stated: "I understand that those who must comply with the [Iran] sanctions are U.S. companies or companies with American capital and American citizens, but we are a company that has nothing to do with the U.S. government," adding that in June "an Iranian delegation is coming to Ecuador to discuss their possible participation in the construction of the Pacific Refinery, a project that will cost $12 billion and in which PDVSA [a state-owned Venezuelan oil company] is a minority partner. Iranians have expressed an initial interest in participating."
Again, Correa apparently does not know or does not care about the destruction of democracy in Iran by the Ayatollahs and the Ahmadinejad dictatorship. Nor does he consider the fact that Iran’s support for terrorism is one of the reasons why Iran is being isolated not only by the U.S., but also by the European Union. Oil is in fact very high on the sanctions list.
Moreover, if Amb. Cely is correct that Correa’s Ecuador is peaceful and inclusive and only sells "bananas and flowers" to Iran, then why do delegations of high-ranking members of the government, including the president of the Central Bank, Pedro Delgado, travel so frequently to Iran? Why did the Italian police find an Ecuadorian diplomatic pouch in Milan containing 40 kg of cocaine, arresting an Ecuadorean citizen linked to the president of Ecuador’s Central Bank and to the sister of President Correa? Why does the GOE continue to undermine well-respected organizations such as the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights and the non-profit organization Human Rights Watch in their investigations of human rights violations in Ecuador? Why does President Correa try by any mean to destroy the independent press in his country, as demonstrated by his efforts to bankrupt newspapers such as El Universo, and persecution of journalists Emilio Palacio, Christian Zurita, and Juan Carlos Calderón? Why did Correa expel the American ambassador last year only because Wikileaks publicized a U.S. Embassy cable that proved corruption in the president’s inner circle?
Here are two documents that show Ecuador’s cooperation with Iran:
- The Central Bank Confidential reports regarding agreements with Iranian bank EBDI.
- The trade agreement Ecuador signed with Iran on 2011.
We respectfully suggest that Ambassador Cely familiarize herself with the range of anti-American, anti-democratic, and pro-Iranian actions by her president before prematurely coming to his defense.
Otto J. Reich is president of the consulting firm Otto Reich & Associates LLC. He is a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, and U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. Twitter: @ottoreich
Ezequiel Vázquez Ger is an associate at Otto Reich Associates LLC and collaborates with the non-profit organization The Americas Forum. Twitter: @ezequielvazquez