Ecuador to oust US ambassador over WikiLeaks spat. Who's next?
Ecuador is expelling US Ambassador Heather Hodges over critical comments in a WikiLeaks cable. Her ouster follows the resignation last month of the US ambassador to Mexico over another controversial cable.
WikiLeaks has claimed its second diplomatic victim in Latin America, with Ecuador expelling its US ambassador over her comments in a leaked cable, straining bilateral relations and casting a shadow over US efforts in the region.Skip to next paragraph
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The ouster of Ambassador Heather Hodges follows the resignation last month of the US ambassador to Mexico after another WikiLeaks cable revealed him portraying Mexican security forces as deeply corrupt and uncoordinated.
Ambassadorial relations have also been severed in recent years in Venezuela and in Bolivia, where Drug Enforcement Agency officials were also expelled. But the chance for confrontation has only grown amid secret-spilling website WikiLeaks' dissemination of more than 250,000 confidential US diplomatic cables.
While a falling domino affect on US ambassadors is unexpected, analysts say that rough patches in bilateral relations across the region could lie ahead.
“It will give a good excuse for any politician who aspires to make the US a punching bag to be able to do it,” says Christopher Sabatini, editor-in-chief of the policy journal Americas Quarterly, published by the Council of the Americas, in New York. “It gives them more fodder.”
Persona non grata
The flare-up in Ecuador came after a July 2009 cable, published Monday by the Madrid newspaper El País but not yet unveiled on WikiLeaks.ch, discussed corruption at the highest ranks among the police.
"Corruption among Ecuadorian national police officers is widespread and well-known," Ambassador Hodges comments in the cable, saying that corruption becomes "more pronounced at higher levels of power." Perhaps most controversial, the cable revealed that some suspect President Rafael Correa was aware of the problems.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Tuesday that Hodges failed to adequately explain her allegations.
"Ecuador's government has decided to consider this woman as a persona non grata ... we have asked her to leave the country in the shortest time possible," he said.
Ecuador emphasized this decision is not a formal break in relations with the US, but it will prove an obstacle moving forward.