Ecuador: US intelligence against Rafael Correa

Ecuador: US intelligence against Rafael Correa

An attempt was made a year ago to topple 'populist' Ecuadorian government. It looked like as if a police revolt could have nearly ended in the killing of President Correa. He spent 9 hours under siege in a hospital in the capital Quito after an uprising by police officers over pay had turned violent. Private TV channels were reporting non-stop from the scene, anticipating  a tragic outcome. 

The circumstances of the revolt, its aims and involvement of US secret service are still widely discussed in the media. Certain 'evidence' is being unveiled to deliberately distort the situation. Agents working for the CIA and the Department of State are promoting an idea that Correa had acted on purpose when he cancelled traditional benefits and bonus pay for police officers. They also say that after the revolt was suppressed, Correa thus obtained a chance to dismiss some police officials and appoint new, more loyal ones, in order to strengthen his regime.   

President Correa had had been regularly reported on preparations taking place for a coup. As a supporter of South American integration on the basis of Socialism, as well as of the creation of a regional defensive bloc, Correa appears to be equally dangerous for the US as his friend and ally Hugo Chavez. The US embassy in Quito and the US consulate in Guayaquil had been working for quite a long time searching for critics of the Correa regime among Ecuadorians. The US secret service also had their agents in Ecuador`s law enforcement institutions. In fact, the CIA, the USAID, and some other organizations cooperating with the US embassy, imposed control over their colleagues in Ecuador, whose officials were fully dependent on the US funding.  

Correa decided to stop the US hegemony in his country. In February of 2009 two American citizens working in the US embassy in Quito were announced personae non-grata. One of them, Armando Astorga, used to supervise anti-drug agencies in Ecuador. The other, Mark Sullivan,  headed the CIA branch, and maintained contacts with those secret police agents who were responsible for video surveillance and eavesdropping, as well as web censorship. The US side would ask these agencies to spy on Chinese, Russian, Brazilian citizens, as well as visitors from other places  put on the US list of 'unfriendly' countries: Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Argentina. Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia militant group, or FARC, were also watched closely by the US. Washington spent billions (in vain) to achieve any evidence that  the Correa Cabinet had links to Al-Qaida. 

The US was really annoyed to learn about the withdrawal of its diplomats from Ecuador. A statement was made shortly after about the suspension of some join projects earlier launched between the two countries` defense ministries. In her reports the US ambassador to Ecuador Heather Hodges described President Correa as 'emotionally immature' person, whose reaction to 'reprisal measures' is hard to predict. Hodges added that a possibility that Correa would cut diplomatic ties was highly likely, which she said would not be the best thing to do. If the US presence in Ecuador is weakened, this will play into the hands of Washington`s major rivals – Russia and China for the two countries have been actively cooperating with Correa on military and energy fields. Strengthening their positions in Ecuador is among top priorities for Beijing and Moscow in the Pacific region. That is why, Hodges said, the US should better avoid tougher sanctions. Her warnings were taken into consideration, and the US embassy tried a new approach in trying to achieve their goals in Ecuador.

Mrs. Hodges personally attended all meetings when the Ecuadorian police departments were receiving necessary equipment from the US side. New checkpoints and army base camps were build there as Washington was doing everything possible to demonstrate their decisiveness in fighting drug trafficking and guerrilla gangs on the Colombia border. However, those measures also improved cooperation with secret agents in army and police.  

Since then Correa has been trying to break such dependence on the US financial support. Thus, instead of sending officers for further training at Fort Benning school in the state of Georgia, Correa recommends camps in Venezuela, Cuba and Brazil. He also ordered a revision into arms trade with the US, keeping in mind Venezuela`s experience, when the Pentagon refused to supply parts of US planes to the country. In November of 2008, Russia`s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Quito to sign a framework agreement on military cooperation. Ecuador then purchased two Russian Mi-171E helicopters designed to transfer personnel, as well as to put out wild fires. Ecuadorian Defense Minister Javier Ponce confirmed that his country was going to sigh a $200 million deal with Russia (provided that Moscow approves the necessary loan) on buying more helicopters and trucks. As Russia`s ambassador to Ecuador Yan Burlay put it, the two countries yet have even wider opportunities for strategic cooperation.

After a scandal following disclosures from WikiLeaks, the relations between Ecuador and the US got strained. In one of her reports, Heather Hodges said that President Correa did not dismiss a police general though knew about his involvement in corruption. Correa could not turn a blind eye on such accusation. In April, Mrs. Hodges was invited to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry to elaborate on what she had earlier said in her report. Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said that Mrs. Hodges 'failed to provide enough evidence to prove her allegation'. After that she was asked to leave Ecuador. Commenting on the issue, Correa said: “Mrs. Hodges has never treated our government well. Though our relations with the US are quite stable now, unfortunately, some US officials are spying on our police, trying to accuse me of corruption”.    

Since July the US embassy in Ecuador has been run by Timothy Zuniga-Brown. A graduate of the National War College, he previously served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Nassau, The Bahamas. Before that, Mr. Zuniga-Brown was the Team Leader of an embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team in southern Baghdad supporting the U.S. Army's 4th Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division. 

In September it was unveiled that the US Department of State appointed Adam E. Namm as new US ambassador to Ecuador. Also a graduate of the  National War College, Namm used to work as a management counselor in Islamabad, and a human resources officer in Bogota.

I can imagine US spies reading Philip Agee`s 'Inside the company: CIA Diary'. Agee used to work in the US embassy in Quito in 1960-1963 and later fled to Cuba. His book provides an 'insider' knowledge of the CIA and shows us what a huge gap there is now between the CIA of the late 1960s and the 2000s. Meanwhile, the number of US agents coming to Ecuador keeps on increasing, promising new challenges to the Correa government…

Tags: CIA  Ecuador    Correa