The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady cites recently captured documents from Colombia’s FARC guerillas to demonstrate what was already clear to any dispassionate observer of South American politics: Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, is no friend of the United States — or of freedom, for that matter. From “The FARC’s Ecuadorean Friends“:
Previously undisclosed documents, fruits of the Colombian military’s raid on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (a.k.a. FARC) camp in Ecuador in 2008, came into my hands last week.
The FARC’s second in command, Raúl Reyes, was killed in that raid. But he left behind laptop computers containing correspondence detailing a cozy relationship not only with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez but also — the fresh documents reveal — with the government of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.
Someone should tell the White House. Ten days ago, President Obama called Mr. Correa to, according to a spokesman, “congratulate him on his recent re-election.” Mr. Obama also wanted to “express his desire to deepen our bilateral relationship and to maintain an ongoing dialogue that can ensure a productive relationship based on mutual respect.”
Mr. 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. Now the Reyes letters provide strong evidence that he has been actively supporting the Marxist FARC guerrillas, who see the U.S. as a major enemy.
For some reason, Correa’s radicalism has escaped the same sort of media scrutiny in the United States that Chavez and to a lesser extent Bolivia’s Evo Morales have received. But like the other two, he’s debased the rule of law and governs an an explicitly anti-American leader.
Ecuador’s policies have flown in the face of the mutually beneficial trade relationships that the United States seeks to engage in. Major U.S. business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, recently wrote U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk highlighting the country’s growing disrespect for the law and asking for a review of Ecuador’s continued eligibility for U.S. trade preferences under the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA).
From the letter, which was signed by the NAM, Business Roundtable, Emergency Committee for American Trade, National Foreign Trade Council, United States Council for International Business, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
While both Peru and Colombia have successfully used this program to promote economic diversification and new opportunities, while also strengthening their own legal systems and respect for the rule of law, the same cannot be said of Ecuador.
In particular, there are serious concerns within the U.S. business community about breaches of the basic rule of law that are occurring in Ecuador, contrary to the basic eligibility requirements of section 203(c). As found by the State Department in its annual human rights report on Ecuador released in February 2009, there are concerns with “corruption and the denial of due process within [Ecuador’s] judicial system.” U.S. businesses have also continued to see Ecuador’s repudiation of its legal obligations to U.S. investors and a politicization of the judicial system.
Given these basic gaps in the rule of law, we believe that the automatic renewal of Andean preferences for Ecuador would send the wrong message to other developing countries in the hemisphere and throughout the world that have worked to meet the basic eligibility criteria to qualify for U.S. trade preferences. We note that Bolivia has already lost its ATPA benefits as a result of its failure to meet the ATPA eligibility criteria and that Bolivia’s actions continue to worsen.
O’Grady notes that Colombia’s President Uribe visits Washington next week. Indeed, Colombia has built on APTA to broaden and strengthen its economy and expand democratic liberties in the country. If Congress is serious about expanding U.S. exports, creating more jobs in the U.S. export sector, and supporting a democratic ally in a troubled region, it would immediately pass the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. It’s that clear.
The wall poster of Cuban murderer Che Guevera is on the side of a building on the major route from downtown Quito to the international airport. I shot it during a recent trip to Ecuador as a guest of Chevron, a U.S. company being attacked by a coalition of U.S. trial lawyers, environmental activists and political forces in Ecuador.
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