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Ecuador expels U.S. ambassador

It says Heather Hodges must go because of corruption comments she made in a cable leaked by WikiLeaks. White House calls the move unjustified.

April 06, 2011|By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times
  • A State Department spokesman said Heather Hodges, above, was one of the department's most experienced ambassadors.
A State Department spokesman said Heather Hodges, above, was one of the… (Rodrigo Buendia / AFP/Getty…)

Reporting from Washington — Ecuador said it was expelling the American ambassador, making her the latest U.S. official to become embroiled in a diplomatic dispute after disclosures by the WikiLeaks website.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said at a news conference Tuesday that Ambassador Heather Hodges was to be expelled because, in one of the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, she accused the just-retired national police commander of corruption and speculated that his alleged misdeeds were known to President Rafael Correa.

The cable, dated July 10, 2009, quoted Hodges as saying that the commander, Jaime Hurtado Vaco, had used his position "to extort cash and property, misappropriate public funds, facilitate human trafficking, and obstruct the investigation and prosecution of corrupt colleagues." The cable was published Monday by the Madrid newspaper El Pais.

Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said Hodges was one of the department's most experienced ambassadors and that the administration considered her expulsion unjustified. He said the department had not decided whether it would reciprocate by expelling Ecuador's ambassador, or take other action.

Patino said Ecuador hoped the expulsion would "not affect the cordial relations between our two governments."

The 6,300 diplomatic cables released by the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks website have caused turbulence for a growing list of diplomats.

Last month, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual was forced to resign after the release of cables in which he discussed the shortcomings of the Mexican government's war on drugs. In January, Ambassador Gene Cretz was forced to leave Libya after the leak of a cable in which he speculated on leader Moammar Kadafi's health and his dependence on a "voluptuous" Ukrainian nurse.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to sue former U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman over a 2004 cable in which he said the leader maintained eight Swiss bank accounts.

paul.richter@latimes.com

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