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Welcome to "Ask the Ambassador" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to U.S. Ambassadors around the world.

U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Linda Jewell,, discussed U.S.-Ecuador bilateral relations.

Linda Jewell, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador
Linda Jewell U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador

Event Date: May 9, 2008

Greg in Cyprus writes :

Just curious to know how you have found life in Ecuador ! We met briefly in Washington before you went off to Post. I was trolling through the State webpage for some info -- I'm having to fill out the gargantuan DS/Security Clearance renewal form -- and I saw that you were featured on the "Ask the Ambo" portal. I hope you enjoyed Ecuador as much as I did.

Ambassador Jewell:

Greg – Thanks for writing in, and nice to be in contact again. I have thoroughly enjoyed living and working in Ecuador during my three-year assignment here. The Ecuadorian people are warm and friendly, and Ecuador is a beautiful country with an amazing geographic diversity

The U.S. continues to maintain its long-standing positive relationship with Ecuador, which started formally in 1824 when we opened our Consulate in Guayaquil , and over the last three years the U.S. Mission here has done much to further that relationship and help improve the lives of ordinary Ecuadorians. In just a few examples, we increased access to micro loans, helped the Ecuadorian government fight trafficking in persons and worked with national federations of persons with disabilities to allow disabled citizens to exercise their right to vote.. I am also happy that the Peace Corps program, which has been operating in Ecuador for 45 years, currently has over 160 Volunteers working alongside Ecuadorians in urban and rural communities on habitat conservation, rural public health, sustainable agriculture and youth and family issues.

As the mother of two teenagers, I also want to mention our “Youth Ambassadors” program which allows Ecuadorian teens to travel to the U.S. for two weeks on a leadership development program. This year's group of Youth Ambassadors just returned from their visit to Washington, D.C. and Boise, Idaho, where they lived with American families and attended high school classes. They came back very impressed with the hospitality of their American host families, and the self-sufficiency of American teens who juggle their classes, sports activities and jobs (and also have their own cars!). They also learned that Americans and Ecuadorians share the values of hard work and respect for family, just the kind of mutual understanding that I have tried to foster during my time as Ambassador.

Timothy in California writes:

Hello Linda: Is the United States working with the Ecuadorian towards the preservation and conservation of the Galapagos Islands? Other than the address to a local consulate, there is no mention of "The Enchanted Isles" on your website.

Ambassador Jewell:

Timothy, thanks for your question. We are actually very active in the Galapagos, especially through the U.S. Agency for International Development ‘s conservation and sustainable development programs. At the moment, we are working with Ecuador 's Galapagos National Park (GNP) to create a more efficient system to manage concessions in the park, which will help local fishermen move into more sustainable and profitable tourism businesses, at a cost of about $350,000. We are also coming to the end of a $1,500,000 grant program with the GNP that established a new visitor site at a complex of lava tubes on Isla Isabella, improved the park's tourism management and communications systems, and supported projects for necessities like docks and land-fills in the municipalities. Last year we concluded a successful $3,400,000 program to improve governance of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, especially by giving fishermen and small tour operators a voice in management decisions. Finally, going back a few more years, we have worked with the Islands ' banks and municipalities to improve services, purchased a patrol plane for the GNP and restored their ocean-going patrol boat, and provided a total of some $3,600,000 to the Charles Darwin Foundation over the last decade.

Richard in Germany writes:

What are the best practices of the host nation government in combating narcotics? And where has U.S. effort been the most effective in assisting Ecuador?

Ambassador Jewell:

Ecuador is not a narcotics producing country like its neighbors Peru and Colombia, so interdiction is the primary focus of government programs here. The Ecuadorian government, with U. S. government assistance, has created a special police unit - the Directorate of Anti-Narcotics (DNA) - which specifically focuses on narcotics detection and interdiction. The DNA has built and manned static checkpoints at strategic locations throughout the country, including major roadways, airports and seaports. In Quito, the DNA has a Canine Center , which maintains a force of approximately 160 dogs and guides trained in drug and money detection for use in 18 locations throughout the country. The DNA also maintains a Group of Special Mobile Anti-Narcotics police (GEMA) trained to respond quickly to special needs throughout the country and to maintain a grid of temporary roadside checkpoints to disrupt traffickers. We are also helping the Ecuadorian military improve its capacity to patrol the country's remote and rugged border zones to discourage the flow of narcotics across the border. Last year, military operations uncovered and destroyed several cocaine producing laboratories and disrupted shipments of precursor chemicals used in the production of cocaine. The Ecuadorian military also destroyed several small plots of coca plants, sending the message that cultivation will not be tolerated in Ecuador .

The Ecuadorian government is also strengthening laws and the implementation of laws against narcotraffickers. In 2005, it passed a money laundering law that has helped reduce the influx of narco dollars into the Ecuadorian economy. The law resulted in convictions this year against family members and associates of Colombian narcotrafficker Hernan Prada, who had attempted to launder more than $40 million in illegal assets in Ecuador . The Government is also implementing a Financial Intelligence Unit to better monitor financial activities and build cases against those involved in money laundering.

Matt in Massachusetts writes:

Ambassador Jewell, thank you for your work in maintaining the United States ' relations with Ecuador! I was just wondering how the standoff in which Ecuador and Venezuela took part against Colombia earlier this year has or could affect the United States' relations with Ecuador, as Colombia is one of our staunchest and most vital allies in Latin America. Does this signify that Ecuador is becoming increasingly aligned with Chavez and less so with the United States, or does it remain equally aligned with both governments?

Ambassador Jewell:

Thank you Matt. The U.S. Government values its historically strong relations with the governments of both Ecuador and Colombia. We support the efforts of the Secretary General of the OAS to use his good offices to work for the restoration of diplomatic relations between Ecuador and Colombia.

The United States continues an active dialogue and close cooperation with the Ecuadorian government in a variety of areas, including economic development, cultural cooperation, educational programs and counternarcotics programs. The Ecuadorian government maintains commercial and political relations with a large number of countries worldwide, including the United States and Venezuela, and I expect it will continue to do so.

Richard in New Jersey writes:

I have a general question regarding U.S. relations with South America not only Ecuador. How is U.S. relations with South America, in general? It is unlike the good, solid historical relations with Europe, especially Western Europe.

Ambassador Jewell:

Although different from our relationship with Western Europe, we also enjoy good relations with the countries of South America . In his remarks to the Council of the Americas on May 7, President Bush said “The foundation of good foreign policy is good relations with your neighbors. A peaceful and secure neighborhood is in the interest of the United States of America . ”Our relations with South America are built on ties between our peoples that go back several centuries. Our consulate in Guayaquil, Ecuador was established in 1824. In recent decades, these ties have expanded and deepened. Countries have moved away from an era of dictatorships, civil strife, and economic crises. Our trade with the region has boomed. The United States stands ready to work with governments whether they are left or right or center. What we care about is that there is a fundamental commitment to democracy, to improving the lives of their citizens and an interest in working with us.

We promote social justice, which includes access to health care and education, and help develop economic opportunities for all the people of the region. We also work together with our neighbors to face the challenge of drug trafficking, by efforts to reduce demand in the U.S., by stemming the flow of drugs through interdiction, and by cooperating with our neighbors to go after the drug cartels.

Chris in Ecuador writes:

Will Ecuador still be willing to work with the United States of America even after 2009 with the closing of the Air Base contract in Manta or will it keep furthering itself from the U.S.A.?

Ambassador Jewell:

In 1999 the U.S. and Ecuador signed a bilateral agreement that permits the U.S. to use a small portion of the Ecuadorian Eloy Alfaro Air Force Base in the coastal city of Manta as a Forward Operating Location (FOL) to conduct counter-narcotics flights. The agreement expires in November 2009. The FOL is an important part of the cooperation between the U.S. government and the Ecuadorian government to combat the transnational threat of drug trafficking and protect Ecuador, its citizens and institutions, from the negative impact of international drug traffickers. It has been very successful. In 2007, information gathered by flights out of the FOL contributed to over 60% of the captures of illegal drugs on the high seas of the Eastern Pacific. These captures totaled over 208 tons and represented a street value of over U.S. $4.2 billion from over 1,100 counternarcotics flights.

While the FOL has been an excellent example of cooperation in counternarcotics, the United States will fully respect the decision if Ecuador decides not to renew the agreement in 2009. For Ecuador, the question of hosting foreign military personnel on its soil is a domestic political issue linked to sovereignty concerns; it is not a litmus test about their commitment to fight illegal drugs or to work with us more broadly. Ecuador and the United States also currently cooperate in many other ways in the fight against drugs and drug-trafficking. I expect that both the U.S. and Ecuadorian governments will continue to find it in their interests to work together on counternarcotics efforts beyond 2009.

Byron in Washington , DC writes:

Will OPIC help to insure the financing from the U.S. of good sustainable development projects in Ecuador , such as renewable hydropower?

Ambassador Jewell:

The U.S. government agency, The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), along with the U.S. Export-Import Bank, is providing much of the financing for the construction of Quito's new international airport. The new airport, with its long runway and increased capacity, will be a significant improvement over the current airport which is constrained by its location in the middle of the city, and is vital to support Ecuador's growing tourism and air cargo industries. I understand that OPIC will consider requests to support new projects in Ecuador on a case-by-case basis.

This is just one of several efforts of the U.S. government to foster economic development in Ecuador. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recently implemented an investment attraction program to support ten economic sectors in Ecuador . This program will serve as a cornerstone of the National Investment Promotion Agency that the Ecuadorian government plans to establish, and of regional investment promotion agencies that we are supporting throughout the country. USAID also works to increase the competitiveness of Ecuadorian industries by linking their products with new international markets and improving their access to credit.

Eric in Pennsylvania writes:

Ambassador Jewell: How much difference do Christian missionaries and aid workers, such as World Vision, Samaritan's Purse, CBN (Christian Broadcast Network)/700 Club, etc. make in the lives of the poor of Ecuador. Does the government appreciate their efforts?

Ambassador Jewell:

Eric - Private U.S. volunteer organizations active in Ecuador are great examples of American volunteerism and compassion. As Ambassador I know that bilateral relationships are guided by governments but are forged by people, and that the more people-to-people contact there is, the more that friendship and understanding can grow. I very much appreciate the efforts of the many concerned U.S. citizens who work in Ecuador as volunteers and with assistance organizations, and I know the Ecuadorian people also appreciate it.

The organizations you mentioned are part of “private diplomacy” efforts that are also carried out by the many U.S. volunteer medical missions that every year bring teams of U.S. health professionals to Ecuador to offer free medical care to needy Ecuadorians, such as the International Medical Alliance, Medical Missions for Children and SurgiCorps. Other examples are charitable services, such as orphanages, run by private Americans living in Ecuador. The U.S. government also provides assistance to help Ecuadorians in need. In August 2007, the U.S. Navy hospital vessel Comfort visited the port of Manta and its doctors and nurses, along with American volunteers from Project Hope, gave medical assistance to over 10,000 Ecuadorian patients. Also, over the past three years, the Embassy's Military Group conducted 21 Medical Readiness Training Exercises in Ecuador that provided medical treatment to over 82,000 patients. As a final example of U.S. government humanitarian assistance efforts, the Embassy donated $1 million in goods and services to victims of recent natural disasters here, including the eruption of the Tungurahua volcano last year, and this year's devastating floods in Ecuador's coastal provinces.

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