In what was perhaps Ecuador’s boldest and most famous foreign policy move under the Rafael Correa administration, in August 2012 asylum was granted to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Ecuador’s U.K. Embassy. But there has been much more to foreign relations than Assange under Ecuador’s Citizens’ Revolution, meaning the country looks considerably different today than it did before President Rafael Correa took the presidential sash.
Before Correa, the domination of business and politics in Ecuador by North American interests — overseen by a U.S. military base on the cost — resulted in little social and infrastructural investment.
Instead of bowing to world powers, the Citizens’ Revolution has prioritized sovereignty and Latin American integration. As such, regional cooperation, integration and solidarity have become foundational to the country’s policies.
Kicking Out U.S. Armed Forces
Ecuador reclaimed the U.S. military base in Manta in 2010
In September 2009, Ecuador formally resumed control of the Manta military base, 10 years after it was leased, rent free, to the U.S. military as part of Plan Colombia.
The decision to not renew the lease was applauded by most social organizations, who also advocated for wording in the country’s new constitution which would bar foreign armed forces from taking up presence in the country.
The Ecuadorean government also canceled a cooperation fund through which the U.S. government financed some Police expenditures, including salaries. After doing so, President Correa expelled Armando Astorga, an attache in the U.S. Embassy in Quito, who criticized the government's decision.
In 2011, Wikileaks revealed several U.S. diplomatic cables from 2009 where U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges blamed the head of the Police force – Jaime Hurtado Vaca – of being corrupt, and claimed that Correa must have known about this. The president requested the ambassador to explain herself over the accusations, but after receiving no response from the Embassy, decided to expel her from the country.
Renegotiating Illegitimate Debt
Before Correa, Ecuadoreans protested IMF and EU debt
Once elected, Correa called for a renegotiation of what he called Ecuador's “illegitimate” US$10.2 billion external debt, given that it was accrued during autocratic and corrupt regimes of the past. Correa threatened to default on Ecuador's foreign debt, and ordered the expulsion of the World Bank's country manager.
As a result of the government's actions, Ecuador was able to renegotiate its debt with its creditors and redirect public funds towards social investments.
Housing UNASUR HQ in Quito
Correa outside UNASUR’s headquarters at Mitad del Mundo, just outside Quito
IN DEPTH: UNASUR: Integrating South America
At the inauguration of the building – located symbolically next to the Middle of the World monument just north of Quito – Correa said, "UNASUR covers 400 million people in 17 million square kilometers. By uniting, we could be the fourth largest economy in the world, with six percent of the gross domestic product in the world. A third of the world's fresh water on the planet, and first in food production, and hydrocarbon reserves for the next 100 years."
Giving Julian Assange Refuge
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (R) at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London with Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño
Ecuador granted diplomatic asylum to the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, on Aug. 16, 2012, despite intense pressure from the U.S. and European governments. Assange began his stay in Ecuador’s London embassy in June 2012.
IN DEPTH: Assange: 1000 Days
Since then, Assange has written articles and conducted interviews speaking about transparency of information and state surveillance.
Becoming a Key ALBA Member
Rafael Correa (R) with other ALBA presidents from (L-R) Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela
The ALBA regional organization works toward South American Liberator Simon Bolivar’s vision of social, political and economic integration and cooperation.
Ecuador became a member of ALBA in 2009 and a year later, Ecuador and Venezuela made the first bilateral trade agreement using ALBA’s digital "sucre" currency.
Standing in Solidarity with Haiti, Palestine
Rafael Correa visits Haiti to see Ecuador’s efforts in reconstruction and aid after the devastating earthquake
Following the devastating earthquake that leveled Haiti in 2010, Ecuador was part of a coordinated response from ALBA countries, contributing over US$20 million in aid and reconstruction support.
Following Israel’s 2014 assault on the Gaza strip, Ecuador once again collaborated with ALBA, contributing over 50 tons of humanitarian aid in a combined effort between the Correa government and Ecuadorian citizens.
Reaching Out to China
Correa meets President Xi Jinping in Beijing
Earlier in November, China's President Xi Jinping repaid the move, visiting Ecuador where he signed a bilateral cooperation agreement which sets out pledges for major energy, infrastructure, financial, agriculture and manufacturing projects.
Important projects discussed by the leaders included hydroelectric and petrochemical plants, as China continues to grow its economic power with Ecuador, and Latin America more widely.