Ecuador’s government on April 6 declared US ambassador Heather Hodges “persona non grata” and expelled her from the country in response to a cable released by the Wikileaks whistle-blower web site. Hodges refused to repudiate the July 2009 confidential cable that bore her signature and was published by Spanish newspaper El País. In the document addressed to the State Department, Hodges said embassy officials believed President Rafael Correa was aware of supposed corrupt practices by former national police chief Jaime Hurtado, but that the president named him to the post anyway because it would make him more easily manipulated.
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said he had communicated Correa’s shock and annoyance to Hodges, but she merely said that the document had been “stolen” and that she had no comment to make. Patiño said her response was “insufficient and unsatisfactory.” (IPS, April 6)
The US immediately retaliated by expelling Ecuador’s ambassador. The State Department said April 7 it has ordered ambassador Luis Gallegos to leave the country as soon as possible. “We’re interested in a positive relationship with Ecuador, but the regrettable and unwarranted decision to declare Ambassador Hodges persona non grata is going to be taken into account as we move forward in the relationship,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. (VOA, April 7)