President Rafael Correa, has described as "nonsense" a proposal by an opposition presidential candidate to reinstall visa requirements for foreigners entering the country.
Based on the constitution adopted in 2008, Ecuador allows almost all travelers to enter the country with only their passport. Only citizens of a handful of Middle Eastern and African countries identified as sources of human trafficking and money laundering are required to present paper visas when they cross the border or arrive at airports.
The proposal to tighten controls was made by former Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutierrez who was forced out of office in 2005. Gutierrez, who is opposing Correa in the February 17 presidential election, said stricter border checks and visa requirements would prevent criminals from the entering the country.
Correa, whose administration removed most visa requirements in 2009, promotes the concept of “universal citizenship,” and said a return to old policies would be “a major mistake.”
"We are very serious about keeping our borders open to citizens of other countries who are in good standing, and we have taken steps to prevent criminals from entering Ecuador,” he said. “To suggest we close our borders again is an irresponsible effort by Gutierrez to win a few votes, "said the president.
Correa added: “I suppose he wants to stop our neighbors in Colombia and Peru from visiting us and impose visas on our friends in the United States and Spain. This would cause harm not only to our tourism industry but with our relationships with other nations.”
Correa said that a number of steps have been taken to identify criminals attempting to enter Ecaudor and the safeguards are adequate.
According to current polls, Correa leads all other presidential candidates by 30% to 35% and appears all but certain to win another term.
Photo caption: Former president and presidential candidate Lucio Gutierrez proposes reimposing visa requirements on foreigners entering Ecuador.