In a communiqué dated December 16th, officials at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that cooperation on development projects and development assistance to Ecuador will end by September of 2014, which will result in the loss of about USD $32 million annually. USAID has been channeling bilateral assistance from the United States to Ecuador since 1961 when the Kennedy Administration originally created the agency as part of the struggle against global communism. In those 60-plus years, USAID contributed over USD $800 million that American officials claim helped hundreds of thousands of Ecuadoreans, although 70% of the current funds are designated for US-based companies and NGOs.
According to USAID officials, the two governments were unable to come to an agreement on four separate projects to help protect the environment and strengthen civil society after more than two years of negotiation. It appears that the Ecuadorean government’s technical secretariat of international cooperation (Seteci) received notice on November 5th that USAID was preparing to invest USD $18 million four projects, and that Seteci responded on November 26th that no further cooperation would be possible between the two countries until the 1962 agreement on bilateral cooperation was reconsidered to reflect the new “economic, political, and social realities in Ecuador.” The Seteci official, Gabriela Rosero, remarked, “The notice we sent to USAID refers to the fact that no more cooperation projects or programs can be implemented; the other issue is the permanence of a U.S. agency, which is a sovereign decision of the United States”
USAID’s departure from Ecuador signals a widening gulf between the two countries that has been happening for some time. Most recently, Rafael Correa (who incidentally was trained as an economist in the United States) threatened to expel USAID last year, claiming that it was conspiring to destabilize progressive leftist regimes in the region, including Ecuador and Bolivia. Given the history of US intervention in Latin America, this accusation went beyond political rhetoric. Relations between Ecuador and the United States were strained additionally through diplomatic episodes where Ecuador was friendly both to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Official asylum was granted by Correa to Assange who remains at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and Correa considered offering asylum to Edward Snowden last year.
Relations between Latin America and the United States are becoming more divergent every year. Countries such as Colombia, Mexico and Chile all have some form of free trade agreements with the United States and collaborate on a variety of issues including security, trade, civil society, environmental protection, and energy. On the other end of the spectrum, Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia all have a strained relationship with the United States to one degree or another. What makes this more interesting is to observe how these dynamics play out within Latin America. Policymakers in both the United States and Latin America should be careful to avoid policies that will encourage a divided Latin America, as it is hard to see how this could be beneficial for any of the parties involved.