Following up on a threat made in January, Ecuador has ordered 20 Defense Department employees in the U.S. Embassy’s military group to leave the country by April 30.
During one of his weekly televsion broadcasts in January, President Rafael Correa had questioned why the U.S. had military personnel in Ecuador, attached to the embassy. “Ecuador doesn’t have military troops in the U.S. and I don’t see why they should have them here,” he said.
Jeffrey Weinshenker, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, confirmed on Thursday that the Ecuadorian government had ordered U.S. military personnel out of the country.
Weinshenker said the military group included 20 Department of Defense employees, not all of them uniformed, and that Washington had provided $7 million in security assistance to Ecuador last year, including technical training for maintaining aircraft and cooperation in combatting drug trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism.
Weinshenker said U.S. military cooperation in Ecuador dates back four decades and that “all the activities we have carried out have had the explicit approval of our Ecuadorean counterparts.”
U.S. relations with Ecuador have been strained in recent years, even before Correa provided asylum in 2012 to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose organization published troves of leaked U.S. military documents and diplomatic cables highly embarrassing to Washington.
One of Correa’s first acts as president in 2007 was announce that the U.S. lease on a military base in Manta would not be renewed. At the time, it was the only U.S. military base in Latin America.