Ecuador said on Thursday it was waiving preferential rights under a US trade agreement to demonstrate its principled approach to the asylum request of former American spy agency contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
US Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the foreign relations panel, had warned in a statement on Wednesday that accepting Snowden “would severely jeopardise” preferential trade access the United States provides to Ecuador under two programmes that expire next month.
“Our government will not reward countries for bad behaviour,” Menendez said.
Snowden is still believed to be hiding at an airport in Moscow, where he flew to from Hong Kong on Sunday, awaiting a ruling on his request for asylum from the South American country. The United States wants him extradited to face charges that he stole and leaked details of secret US government surveillance programmes.
Menendez also called on Russia to stop sheltering Snowden and turn him over to the United States.
Officials on Thursday in Quito also said that Snowden’s case had still not been processed because he had not reached any of its diplomatic premises.
“The petitioner is not in Ecuadorean territory as the law requires,” government official Betty Tola said at an early morning news conference in Ecuador.
Bristling at suggestions Quito was weighing the pros and cons of Snowden’s case in terms of its own interests, officials also said Ecuador would not base its decision on its desire to renew the Andean Trade Preferences Act with Washington.
“Ecuador gives up, unilaterally and irrevocably, the said customs benefits,” said another official, Fernando Alvarado.
In a deliberately cheeky touch from the government of President Rafael Correa, Ecuador also offered a multimillion donation for human rights training in the United States.
“What’s more, Ecuador offers the United States economic aid of US$23 million (HK$178.4 million) annually, similar to what we received with the trade benefits, with the intention of providing education about human rights,” Alvarado added.
“Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone, nor does it trade with principles or submit them to mercantile interests, however important those may be.”