Although U.S. President Joe Biden has assured President Guillermo Lasso that a trade agreement between Ecuador and the U.S. would be signed soon, two U.S. senators say the deal should be a “top priority.”
During Lasso’s visit to Washington, D.C., earlier this week, Senators Bob Menéndez and Rob Portman, said negotiations for trade pacts with Ecuador and Uruguay have “bogged down” over details. “Ecuador is a good friend of the U.S. and we need to treat them as such,” said Menéndez, a Democrat. “The work for an agreement has been going on for years and it is time to finish it.” His Republican colleague on the Senate’s International Relations Committee, Portman, agreed. “At a time when we face challenges from Chinese commercial interests in Latin America we should move quickly to benefit countries that reflect our values.”
In his comments, Portman noted that China had recently overtaken the U.S. as Ecuador’s top trade partner. “By benefiting our allies in the region, the U.S. benefits itself,” he said. “We need to finish this deal.”
Lasso modifies reelection announcement
Returning from the U.S. on Thursday, President Guillermo Lasso admitted he “jumped the gun” Tuesday when he announced he would seek reelection in 2025. The announcement, made following his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, caught supporters and opponents off guard. “On reflection, I realize now that it is too early to talk about an election two years away. Ecuador faces enormous problems and this is where I should focus my attention.”
Lasso said his announcement was a “spontaneous reaction” to his talks with U.S. officials. “In Washington, I was emboldened by the discussions and the realization of both the challenges we face and the success that lies ahead. We made great progress in the talks but it made me realize how much work lies ahead to achieve the goals I have set out.”
He added that he did not intend to talk further about the 2025 election until 2024. “My pledge to the Ecuadorian people is to concentrate on the work at hand.”
An advisor to Lasso, who asked to remain unnamed, said the president’s announcement was “spontaneous” and reflected his recent successes with the National Assembly and improving public support. “He understands now that his comments about the election were premature.”
Judge who released Glas is dismissed
Ecuador’s Judiciary Council has dismissed a judge who granted early release to former vice president Jorge Glas and two others serving prison sentences. Judge Banny Molina Barrezueta, a judge in the Portoviejo Penitentiary Guarantees Unit, committed “very serious infractions and inexcusable errors” in releasing the three men, the council said.
According to prison officials and the Council, Glas, Christian Araujo and Daniel Salcedo will be returned to prison soon.
Glas is serving sentences of six and eight years on corruption charges while Salcedo was facing a 13-year sentence for defrauding a Guayaquil public hospital in the purchase of medical supplies. Araujo was convicted on two illegal drug charges.
Ecuador-Colombia talk border security
Defense officials from Ecuador and Colombia will meet next week to work details of the agreement reached last week between President Guillermo Lasso and Colombian President Gustavo Petro to combat illegal drug transport on the border.
“President Petro and I had a very productive talk regarding the common interest of controlling crime associated with drug gangs operating between our countries,” Lasso said in a Thursday interview. “We have scheduled meetings in Bogota and Quito to address joint military and police operations and to share intelligence.”
Calling Petro a “great friend of Ecuador,” Lasso said Colombia and Ecuador will forge other agreements in the coming months, including one regarding Venezuelan refugees.