The United States' top governmental aid agency closed its doors in Ecuador on Wednesday, after years of controversy surrounding its operations in the South American nation.
Stating the organization has officially “closed our field office,” the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said on its website it leaves behind a “proud legacy in the development gains.” USAID had been operating in Ecuador for 53 years.
However, the aid agency has drawn criticism for the 10 percent of its US$12 million Ecuador budget dedicated to political programs, such as supporting groups accused of destabilization by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa.
Ecuador now follows in the footsteps of other leftist governments in the region, including Venezuela and Bolivia. Both nations have also pushed USAID off their soil over concerns the agency packages subversive operations with its aid projects.
In 2013, whistleblower website Wikileaks published a secret U.S. cable seemingly outlining a plot to destabilize Venezuela and overthrow the government. Dated November 9, 2006, the cable was allegedly authored by then ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield.
In the cable, Brownfield stated the “majority” of USAID's work in Venezuela was aimed at overthrowing then president Hugo Chavez.
Earlier this year, more leaked U.S. cables purportedly showed the United States was likewise plotting to overthrow Correa in 2005 and 2006, according to an analysis of the documents by Green Left Weekly.
One of the cables appears to indicate USAID's humanitarian work was being used to whitewash controversial U.S. counter-narcotics efforts, according to GLW.
In neighboring Colombia, U.S. anti-drug efforts have been criticized for allegedly allowing U.S. weapons to fall in the hands of right-wing paramilitary groups, along with supporting the use of chemical spraying to target drug crops.
The former have been accused of widespread human rights abuses, while the latter have been criticized by Colombian farmers – who say the chemicals destroy food crops.
Correa has also closed Washington's counter-narcotics base in Ecuador, and earlier this year demanded U.S. military personnel leave the country.