U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, Michael Fitzpatrick, says the relationship between the U.S. and Ecuador has never been stronger and sees it growing even stronger in the coming months. The immediate challenge for both countries, he says, is overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The coronavirus has placed heavy burdens on Ecuador, creating an economic crisis affecting not just the government, but the people in Ecuador,” Fitzpatrick said. He added that the hardship has sent thousands of Ecuadorians to Mexico in an attempt to enter the U.S. illegally, a practice he strongly discourages.
The ambassador foresees better times ahead for Ecuador and believes the U.S. can help in improving conditions. “We are close to completing a trade agreement that will benefit both countries and we are strengthening ties to combat drug trafficking that has exacted a heavy toll on Ecuador, particularly in the coastal provinces.”
He continued: “Both of our countries have new governments with fresh ideas and I think the discussions that are currently in progress will yield impressive results.”
Fitzpatrick says the first step to rejuvenate Ecuador’s economy is to vaccinate the population and he praised the commitment of President Guillermo Lasso to vaccinated nine million Ecuadorians by September. “I think this will be successful since the vaccines are arriving in the country on an ongoing basis. The U.S. has donated two million doses, with one million already delivered, and I am confident that Ecuador will have sufficient doses to vaccinate the majority of the population before the end of the year.”
In two interviews last week, Fitzpatrick’s strongest message was to Ecuadorians considering entering the U.S. without a visa. “Don’t try it,” he says. “It is very dangerous, and many have died in the attempt and if you do make it past the border you will probably get caught and sent home,” he said. “Many Ecuadorians and other Latin Americans have disappeared during the journey to the border. Many of the so-called coyotes who offer services to transport people are criminals whose only interest in making money.”
As the pandemic comes under control, the ambassador says, the economy will improve and there are will be more jobs and opportunities in Ecuador. “I understand the difficulty many face because of the crisis but I urge those thinking of going to the U.S. illegally to remain in Ecuador because things will improve. There is a misconception that unauthorized entry to the U.S. is easier now because we have a new president but this is not the case. In fact, the opposite is true.”
Following up on a U.S. Embassy advisory last week, Fitzpatrick said the delay in processing visa applications and renewals to the U.S. is unavoidable. The embassy said that there will be a six-month wait on all tourist and business visa requests due to the pandemic.
“The embassy in Quito and the consulate in Guayaquil were closed for months because of the pandemic and as we resume some functions there will be delays with others,” he said. “We are prioritizing cases of medical emergencies and for students studying in the U.S. but we caution that those considering tourist and non-essential business trips that will encounter lengthy delays before we return to normal operations.”