QUITO, (Reuters) – Ecuador’s leftist government thumbed its nose at Washington yesterday by renouncing U.S. trade benefits and offering to pay for human rights training in America in response to pressure over asylum for former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
The angry response threatens a showdown between the two nations over Snowden, and may burnish President Rafael Correa’s credentials to be the continent’s principal challenger of U.S. power after the death of Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” government spokesman Fernando Alvarado said at a news conference.
In a cheeky jab at the U.S. spying program that Snowden unveiled through leaks to the media, the South American nation offered $23 million per year to finance human rights training.
The funding would be destined to help “avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity,” Alvarado said. He said the amount was the equivalent of what Ecuador gained each year from the trade benefits.
“Ecuador gives up, unilaterally and irrevocably, the said customs benefits,” he said.
In Washington, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told reporters that Ecuador was still currently eligible for U.S. trade benefits under two separate programs, despite Alvarado’s comment. But the United States would be reviewing the statutes for both programs to see if the remarks had any implications for Ecuador’s standing, he said.