The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s latest op-ed is well worth a read by folks considering extending ATPDEA trade preferences to Ecuador. The op-ed has struck a nerve with the Correa regime that has responded with shrill commentary, rather than facts.
Bottom line: Ecuador remains a terrorist safe haven and, unless the Correa crew changes its approach, extension of trade preferences for Ecuador should be rejected.
In its Country Reports on Terrorism, the State Department defines a terrorist safe haven as “an ungoverned, under-governed, or ill-governed areas of a country and non-physical areas where terrorists that constitute a threat to U.S. national security interests are able to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train, and operate in relative security because of inadequate governance capacity, political will, or both. Physical safe havens provide security for terrorist leaders, allowing them to plan acts of terrorism around the world.” By supporting the Colombian terrorist group, the FARC, Ecuador clearly meets the definition.
In addition to supporting the FARC, Ecuador has ceased high-level cooperation with the U.S. in various anti-narcotics efforts. The Correa regime has also shut down the Manta military facility built by U.S. taxpayers to a tune of close to $100 million. The facility played an important role interdicting drug traders and human traffickers. These operations will need to be moved to another country in the region and, yes, U.S. taxpayers will have to foot the bill, yet again. And Ecuador’s links to state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Cuba are well known and documented.
The Correa regime is not an ally of the U.S., rather it is a proxy for Cuba and Venezuela. It destabilizes the region by providing safety to terrorists and drug traders. As O’Grady states, Correa is “anything but respectful of U.S. interests in the region. He’s more like Fidel Castro — albeit with a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Illinois. Under his rule, liberty has been evaporating faster than you can say bolivariano.”
Rather than rewarding Ecuador, the U.S. should be researching targeted economic sanctions on Ecuadorean officials known to support the FARC or engaging in the drug trade and human trafficking. These sanctions should restrict the entry of Ecuadorean officials and private individuals to the U.S. and freeze assets. The Obama Administration should also reject ATPDEA extension to Ecuador. These steps, albeit minor, will send a clear signal to the Correa regime that if it wants the benefits that come with access to the U.S. market and U.S. taxpayer monies, it needs to change its ways.
A strong, pro-freedom approach by the Obama Administration will also give much-needed energy to Ecuador’s struggling opposition movement that has been politically asphyxiated by the Correa machine.