Ecuador’s government said on Wednesday it would expel a US embassy official who allegedly disputed the transfer of a senior police investigator amid a growing diplomatic spat over Washington’s aid to the South American nation.
It is the second expulsion order against a US embassy official this month by Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who has accused US officials of “insolence” for conditioning aid on the right to veto personnel choices.
Mark Sullivan, the embassy’s first secretary in its office of regional affairs, must leave the country within 48 hours because of his “unacceptable meddling,” Foreign Minister Fander Falconi said.
Falconi said Sullivan, in a meeting with police earlier this month, questioned a decision by Police Chief Jaime Hurtado to transfer the head of the Special Investigations Unit to another police post.
Interior Minister Gustavo Jalk said Sullivan threatened to cut off “logistical and economic” aid to the unit, which investigates high-profile cases, including drug trafficking.
“We can’t let foreign officials set conditions over internal affairs according to their own particular views,” Jalk said.
Gordon Duguid, acting deputy spokesman at the US State Department, said the US regretted Ecuador’s decision.
“We also reject any suggestion of wrongdoing by embassy staff. Despite the government of Ecuador’s unjustified actions, we remain committed to working collaboratively with Ecuador to confront narcotics trafficking,” Duguid said.
On Feb. 7, Correa ordered the expulsion of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement attache Armando Astorga for allegedly suspending US$340,000 in annual aid because Ecuador would not allow the US to veto appointments to the anti-smuggling police. US embassy officials said Astorga had completed his assignment and was already out of the country when Correa ordered him out.