Ecuador has angrily rejected a United States State Department report that the country has a poor record combating the international drug trade. Ecuador was included with 17 Latin American countries and 79 countries worldwide the U.S. says is not doing enough to stop the flow of drugs.
“We consider our inclusion on the list as retaliation for Ecuador’s independence from Washington on a wide range of issues,” said Interior Minister Jose Serrano. “This country has one of the best records in this hemisphere in fighting the drug trade and we have been recognized by the United Nations for our efforts,” he said.
Serrano said that the U.S. is still angry at Ecuador’s 2009 decision not to renew a lease for a military base in Manta that had been used to monitor Latin America traffic. Ecuador claimed that the base was also used for other purposes, including political surveillance, and that it was not in the country’s interests to allow U.S. troops on Ecuadorian soil.
The U.S. State Department said that Ecuador was a major corridor for north-bound drugs flowing from Peru and Bolivia and that it lacked resources to control the problem. The report noted, however, that Ecuador is not a “significant” producer of drugs, such as neighbors Colombia and Peru.
Serrano said that funds to fight trafficking have increased almost 300% since 2006 and that Ecuador is confiscating record amounts of drugs, primarily cocaine, passing through the country.
“This is the price this country pays for pursuing an independent foreign policy and relying less on the U.S. and more on our regional partners,” Serrano said.
Serrano added that the U.S. seems to have “trouble keeping its story straight,” citing a recent meeting he had with new U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Todd Chapman. During the meeting, Chapman praised Ecuador for its successful program to control drug traffic.