Ecuador thumbs nose at US trade ‘blackmail’ over Snowden

Posted Jun 29, 2013 by Anne Sewell
As the Edward Snowden mystery-thriller continues, Ecuador has renounced trade benefits, which the US had threatened to revoke. The Latin American country offered funding for human rights education for Americans instead.
Ecuador President Rafael Correa on Ecuador TV
Ecuador President Rafael Correa on Ecuador TV
by Presidencia de la República del Ecuador
Digital Journal reported on June 27 that Ecuador's President Rafael Correa had responded to heavy criticism in the US media with some scalding online remarks.
On Thursday, an influential US senator had said that should Ecuador grant political asylum to the NSA whistleblower, he would use his leverage over trade issues to cut preferential treatment of Ecuadoran goods at the US market.
US Senator Robert Menendez heads the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate and had said that Ecuador risks losing benefits it enjoys under two trade programs because of its stance on Edward Snowden.
Menendez had said, "Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior."
Ecuador's response came from government spokesman Fernando Alvarado at a news conference: "Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests."
President Rafael Correa said: "All of a sudden, trade tariffs became an instrument of blackmail: behave or leave the free trade movement. In the face of threats, insolence and arrogance of certain U.S. sectors, which have pressured to remove the preferential tariffs because of the Snowden case, Ecuador tells the world: We unilaterally and irrevocably denounce the preferential tariffs. Our dignity has no price."
"It is outrageous to try to delegitimize a state for receiving a petition of asylum," Correa added.
Correa had also made a swift response to a Washington Post editorial this week which criticized what it called a "double standard" in Ecuador, noting that the country is weighing asylum for Snowden just after it passed new regulations cracking down on press freedoms.
Correa said in a string of Twitter posts:
"What a joke! Do they realize the power of the international press? They have centered the attention on Snowden and the 'evil' countries that 'support' him, making everyone forget the terrible things that he denounced in front of the American people and the entire world."
The country has now renounced the trade benefits, with Alvarado adding that Ecuador is willing to allocate $23 million annually, an equivalent of the sum that it gained from the benefits, to fund human rights training in the US in order for that country to "avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity."
Currently the US is Ecuador's prime trade partner and over 40% of exports head to the US market. Both trade programs are set to expire by the end of July and are subject to congressional review.
Before the incident with Snowden, the US was expected to scrap one of the trade programs, but to renew the other.
Snowden applied for political asylum in Ecuador in order to get protection from American prosecutors, pursuing him on espionage charges. However, at present Ecuador would be unable to grant this asylum as Snowden is not "on Ecuadoran soil." Julian Assange was successful in his bid, as he was at the time ensconced in the country's embassy in London, and thus on Ecuador's soil.
Snowden is thought to still be somewhere in the transit zone of Moscow airport where he became stranded after arriving from Hong Kong, as the US had annulled his passport.
In the video above, details of Snowden and Ecuador's trade problems start from 2:34.