Ever since Rafael Correa became the President of the Republic of Ecuador in 2007, relations between the South American country and the US have been tense. An ally of Venezuela’s then President Hugo Chavez, in 2009, Correa had two US Embassy officials expelled. They were accused of “interfering in the country’s internal affairs.” Now Correa wants the USAID out of the country by September 30. He explained on the state-owned channel Ecuador TV: “We don’t need charity.” USAID in Ecuador had a $15 million budget for fiscal year 2013.
Armed with a PhD in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Correa is a self-described leftist, socialist who wants to reduce the burden of Ecuador’s foreign debt and spend more on social welfare programs for the poor. (Never in office has Correa’s approval rating dipped below 50 percent.) But will the people support him if he scraps the bilateral investment treaty with the US–Ecuador’s principal trading partner? (Exchanges are estimated at $17 billion.) Correa might be willing to sever those ties. He believes the treaty is biased in favor of US companies like Chevron which, last year, dodged a $19 billion fine by Ecuador for polluting the Amazon basin region. Cornered they undermine the economic sovereignty of Ecuador, the government is reviewing all of its 26 international accords (including those with France, Germany, Ireland, Sweden). A report of findings is due in June 2014.