QUITO -- Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa gave an attache at the U.S. Embassy 48 hours to leave the country, describing as "insolent" a letter the official wrote to the headquarters of the Andean nation's National Police force.
"Mr. Foreign Minister (Fander Falconi), listen, give Mr. Armando Astorga 48 hours to grab his suitcases and get out of this country. We don't accept anyone here who treats us like a colony," Correa said in his weekly activities report.
The president read a letter sent to National Police headquarters by Armando Astorga, who, according to the head of state, "acts as an attache at the U.S. Embassy," although he did not specify in what capacity.
In that letter, according to Correa, Astorga said that they had decided to end "the agreement of logistical and operational aid for the anticontraband-operations unit of the National Intelligence Agency of the National Police."
According to the head of state, the United States was accustomed to evaluate the personnel and the commander of that unit, which led Correa to order an "end" to that situation.
For Correa, Astorga's letter and other related economic reprisals go back to a decision adopted by his government to end U.S. evaluations of police personnel.
In the letter sent Jan. 8 and made public Saturday by Correa, Astorga said that from Jan. 9, 2009, "the $340,000 of annual logistical and operational aid" for that police unit "is suspended."
"Mr. Astorga, keep your dirty money, we don't need it, we have sovereignty and dignity here, keep the $340,000, you stupid, insolent one," Correa said, adding that everything the U.S. gave to that unit will be returned because, he said, "Ecuador doesn't need charity from anybody."
The government said that next Monday Astorga will receive a letter confirming that the country doesn't need the $340,000 nor the $160,000 annually that the United States was going to provide for logistical and operational aid for the national unit against people trafficking.
Correa said that in the letter Ecuador will propose giving "a donation to the U.S. of $160,000 annually for a project to eliminate torture in the United States," saying that "torture is being practiced in prisons like Guantanamo."
"These people don't know who they're dealing with," he said, adding that recently U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges asked him if he would allow the landing of United States aircraft for antidrug surveillance on Ecuadorian soil after U.S. operations end this year at the Manta base in western Ecuador.
Correa said Saturday that he studied the subject and has decided to allow the landings, but on one condition: "That we will have to evaluate the pilots of these aircraft to make sure no criminals are coming into our country."
"We'll evaluate the pilots and if we don't, no U.S. aircraft is landing here," Correa said, repeating that Astorga's letter was an "extremely serious business."
This is "shameless and tactless meddling of an official of the United States Embassy in the internal affairs of our country," he said.
"This poor guy has not understood that there's a government here now and that we're not an American colony, but a proud and sovereign nation, he said, and added that he wasn't going to let this slip by.
A U.S. Embassy source told Efe that Astorga is an official of that legation, although he did not specify what position he occupied and would only say that he was a "United States diplomat."