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Ecuador's president orders expulsion of U.S. diplomat

The official, however, left Ecuador last month when his assignment ended. The president blames him for suspending $340,000 in annual aid.

February 08, 2009|Associated Press

QUITO, ECUADOR — President Rafael Correa on Saturday ordered the expulsion of a top U.S. diplomat he accused of suspending $340,000 in annual aid because Ecuador would not allow the U.S. to veto appointments to the anti-smuggling police.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said the official in question, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement attache, left the country in early January when his assignment ended, and that the aid suspension was a U.S. government decision.

Ecuador's leftist president said the official, Armando Astorga, announced the suspension of aid to anti-contraband police in a Jan. 8 letter that also demanded they return all donated equipment, including vehicles, furniture, cameras and phones.

Correa said Astorga also said in the letter addressed to Ecuador's police chief that $160,000 in annual aid to the Human Trafficking Unit "is being reconsidered."

"Mr. Astorga, keep your dirty money! We don't need it. Here there is sovereignty and dignity," Correa said during his weekly radio address, calling the U.S. diplomat "insolent and foolish."

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Marta Youth said Astorga left Ecuador last month and that the decision to suspend the assistance was in response to an Ecuadorean government policy. She did not elaborate.

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