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Ecuador tells Obama to keep his change, they'll keep their dignity

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Don't mess with Ecuador, President Obama! That's the message the government of that country is sending as they face pressure from U.S. officials over the asylum request of Edward Snowden. The U.S. has said that relations between the two countries could become strained if Ecuador accepts Snowden's request.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In a message of defiance, Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, fired back in both words and deeds against Obama administration officials who threatened Ecuador over their consideration of Edward Snowden's request for asylum there.

Correa told the Obama administration they were giving up millions of dollars from the U.S. as part of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act as a sign of their umbrage. Correa also indicated that he was prepared to go further.

"In the face of threats, insolence and arrogance of certain U.S. sectors, which have pressured to remove the preferential tariffs because of the Snowden case, Ecuador tells the world we unilaterally and irrevocably renounce the preferential tariffs. It is outrageous to try to delegitimize a state for receiving a petition of asylum," Correa said.

Correa's fiery announcement has bolstered his support on the left, but he also has plenty of critics within his own government who are concerned about losing tens of millions of dollars of U.S. aid.

Correa has also been recently criticized for his own crackdown on the media in that country. A Washington Post editorial referred to Correa's "double standard" in dealing with his own media and criticizing the U.S.

Ecuador receives about $19 billion for trade with the U.S. and the country remains relatively poor. However, Correa's move to renounce some U.S. money is a smart move because that money is being lost anyway.

According to Vicente Albornoz, dean of economics at the University of the Americas in Quito, a trade agreement with the U.S. worth $23 million, is set to expire next month and wasn't expected to be renewed. Now, by renouncing that agreement and the money that goes with it, Correa can portray himself as strong and self-sufficient, while giving up something he was losing anyway.

"Our dignity doesn't have a price," Correa said of the money.

Ecuador continues to weigh the asylum request for Edward Snowden, a process which the country says could take at least eight weeks. In the meantime, Snowden is rumored to be hiding out in the international area of a Moscow airport terminal.

Snowden is wanted in the U.S. on espionage charges for leaking classified information to the media about a mass surveillance program conducted by the National Security Administration . That program targets international communications, but according to Snowden also nets domestic communications within the U.S. and the data of millions of Americans is being aggregated daily.

Supporters of Snowden say the program violates the Fourth Amendment rights of all Americans and praise him as a hero. Others claim the program has helped to foil dozens of terrorist plots and regard Snowden as a traitor.

Snowden could face decades in prison if American officials can arrest him.

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