Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa came up with scalding online remarks over criticism his country faced from the US press for potentially granting asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“They’ve managed to focus attention on Snowden and on the ‘wicked’ countries that ‘support’ him, making us forget the terrible things against the US people and the whole world that he denounced,” Correa said Wednesday in response to a Tuesday Washington Post editorial.
“The world order isn’t only unjust, it’s immoral,” Correa added.
The US newspaper accused Correa of adhering to double standards in the NSA leaker case, as Ecuador is considering harboring Snowden from prosecution over US espionage charges. It descried the Ecuadoran president as “the autocratic leader of a tiny, impoverished” country with an ambition to replace the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez as “the hemisphere’s preeminent anti-US demagogue”.
The Washington Post lashed out at a legislation recently adopted by Ecuador, saying that it diminishes freedom of press. It also said Ecuador is profiting from duty-free trade with the US while criticizing Washington’s policies.
Earlier this week US Secretary of State John Kerry chose rhetoric similar to that of the Washington Post as he admonished China and Russia for failing to apprehend Snowden and extradite him for trial in America.
“I wonder if Snowden chose Russia or China for assistance because they are such bastions of internet freedom,” he said sarcastically.
Cost of non-compliance
US officials are also mounting pressure on Ecuador over its stance in the leaker debacle. Senator Robert Menendez, who heads the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate, said such a move would hurt Ecuador’s international trade, which is highly dependent on export to the US.
“Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior,” the influential US lawmaker said, as he was warning that he would target two trade programs with Ecuador for accepting the NSA leaker.
Menendez said he would lead the effort to prevent the renewal of Ecuador’s duty-free access to US markets under the Generalized System of Preferences program. He also said he would block renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). Both programs expire at the end of next month.
The major commodities of Ecuador’s export to the US are crude oil, cut flowers, fruits and vegetables, shrimp and prawns. Duty-free access to US markets is supporting roughly 400,000 jobs in the country of 14 million people.
Ecuador is the last remaining recipient of the ATPDEA, which used to include Bolivia, Colombia and Peru in the past and was not expected to be renewed for Ecuador even before Snowden came up with his revelations of the US phone and internet surveillance programs.
The country has been lobbying the Obama administration to include additional goods under the Generalized System of Preferences program to soften the blow from the cancellation.