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.
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“This decision is clearly a setback for US-Ecuador relations,” says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. “Declaring the ambassador persona non grata and expelling her is a serious matter and will likely have some costs for the bilateral relationship.”Skip to next paragraph
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Another mess in Mexico
WikiLeaks cables have complicated the efforts of American diplomacy around the globe. They could provide a key test in Latin America, where the role of the US has changed dramatically in the past decade.
The reactions to cables have thus far depended on the reality in each country. While Ecuador reacted strongly to the WikiLeaks cables, Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, for one, handled a cable questioning her mental health with restraint.
In Mexico, meanwhile, Carlos Pascual on March 19 announced his resignation as ambassador after he butted heads with Mexican President Felipe Calderón over his military-run strategy to counter drug crime, a strategy that has cost more than 35,500 lives since Mr. Calderón took office in late 2006.
Mr. Sabatini says the case shows how crucial the US considers its partnership with Mexico in fighting drug trafficking.
Washington's diplomatic gaps
But Washington is now contending with several diplomatic holes. For some observers, this is the fault of left-leaning leaders provoking the US. For others, it is the fault Washington not knowing how to engage the region, particularly those countries led by leftists.
"It shows the problems and limits of the Obama administration's engagement strategy toward governments like Ecuador's that had not been too friendly to Washington,” says Mr. Shifter. “It will strengthen skeptics of that strategy in Washington."
It also underlines once again how the US role in Latin America has waned, says Riordan Roett, director of the Latin American Studies Program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
“It demonstrates that the US no longer occupies a hegemonic position in the region. Decades ago [countries] would be afraid to expel an ambassador,” he says. “There is heightened willingness of small governments to take a stand against the US without fearing reprisals.”