News Column

Ecuador Says Washington Trying to Strongarm It in Snowden Case

June 28, 2013

Ecuador said it would not be bullied by Washington into not granting asylum to fugitive self-declared U.S. spy-program leaks source Edward Snowden.

"Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone and it doesn't bargain with its principles or sovereignty," President Rafael Correa said at the inauguration of a public-works project n the central province of Los Rios.

At the same time, the small Andean country reiterated Thursday it didn't provide the rogue former intelligence analyst with travel papers that could help his global journey to evade espionage charges.

"The government of Ecuador hasn't authorized the issuance of any safe pass or refugee documents that allow Mr. Snowden to travel to our country," Political Affairs Secretary Betty Tola told reporters in Quito, the capital.

She also said a "safepass" for temporary travel, issued to Snowden by the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, was genuine but not valid, since the person who issued it had no authority to do so.

It was issued in the name of Ecuadorean Consul General Fidel Narvaez and says it was "granted to allow the bearer to travel to the territory of Ecuador for the purpose of political asylum."

A copy of the one-page document was obtained by U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster Univision and shown in a news broadcast and on its website late Wednesday.

"Any document on this matter does not have any validity and is the exclusive responsibility of who issued it," Tola said.

"To grant or deny asylum is essential to the sovereignty of our country."

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said giving Snowden asylum would create "grave difficulties for our bilateral relationship."

"If they take that step, that would have very negative repercussions," he said.

Ecuador also renounced its U.S. trade benefits Thursday, saying the benefits, which are up for renewal by the U.S. Congress in July, were being used as "blackmail."

The Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act lets Ecuador export more than $1 billion in trade to the United States free of tariffs.

The trade page also applies to Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said Wednesday he would lead an effort to block renewal of trade preferences for Ecuador if it granted asylum to Snowden.

"Our government will not reward countries for bad behavior," Menendez said in a statement.

"If Snowden is granted asylum in Ecuador, I will lead the effort to prevent the renewal of Ecuador's duty-free access under GSP [Generalized System of Preferences] and will also make sure there is no chance for renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act," his statement said.

"Trade preferences are a privilege granted to nations, not a right," Menendez said.

Ecuador had been lobbying Congress to renew the preferences.

The Ecuadorean Embassy in Washington set up the "Keep Trade Going" campaign, featuring testimonials from companies that benefit from duty-free trade with Ecuador, USA Today reported.

Ecuador would lose at least 40,000 jobs if the trade preferences are not renewed, Ecuadorean Ambassador to the United States Nathalie Cely said last year.




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Source: Copyright UPI 2013