Skip to main content

Ecuador's president to U.S.: Don't threaten us on Snowden case

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 6:40 AM EDT, Fri June 28, 2013
  • Ecuador says it's turning down a tariff deal with the U.S. and won't bow to pressure
  • Correa: "It is outrageous to try to delegitimize a state for receiving a petition of asylum"
  • Some in Ecuador are worried about the impact of souring relations with the United States
  • Ecuador is weighing an asylum request from fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden

(CNN) -- Defiant authorities in Ecuador say they won't bow to U.S. pressure as they weigh former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's request for asylum.

Ecuador's president and other top officials said Thursday that they're turning down the trade benefits the United States gives them as part of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act.

"In the face of threats, insolence and arrogance of certain U.S. sectors, which have pressured to remove the preferential tariffs because of the Snowden case, Ecuador tells the world we unilaterally and irrevocably renounce the preferential tariffs," President Rafael Correa said Thursday, reiterating comments other officials from his government made earlier in the day.

In a fiery speech at an event in Quevedo, Ecuador, the president vowed not to back down.

Snowden fueling U.S.-Ecuador row
Snowden could widen U.S.-Ecuador rift
Meet Ecuador's whistleblower
Edward Snowden joins 'The Terminal' Club

"It is outrageous to try to delegitimize a state for receiving a petition of asylum," Correa said.

Authorities in Ecuador said they're still evaluating Snowden's asylum petition, which has thrust the South American country into the international spotlight as a key player in the global manhunt for the fugitive who has admitted leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs.

Snowden, who faces espionage charges in the United States, is slammed as a traitor by critics and hailed as a hero by his supporters.

Where can you buy a second citizenship?

For Correa, a left-leaning economist who is known for decrying what he and other Latin American leaders have called U.S. imperialism, the leaker's case has provided a platform both to espouse his views and to slam his critics.

He offered a swift response on social media when a Washington Post editorial this week criticized what the newspaper called a "double standard" in Ecuador, noting that the country is weighing asylum for Snowden just after it passed new regulations cracking down on press freedoms.

"What a joke! Do they realize the power of the international press? They have centered the attention on Snowden and the 'evil' countries that 'support' him, making everyone forget the terrible things that he denounced in front of the American people and the entire world," Correa said in a series of Twitter posts.

But even as government officials ratchet up their rhetoric, some in Ecuador have expressed concerns about the effect souring relations with the United States could have on the country.

Ecuador-U.S. relations in the spotlight

The head of Ecuador's chamber of commerce on Thursday criticized the government's decision to withdraw from the trade deal as a "hostile act" that was "irresponsible."

Former Vice President Blasco Penaherrera Padilla, a sharp critic of Correa's government, said it was a decision that would have a "gravely negative" impact on his country.

"It creates an unsuitable climate for a profitable, productive and positive relationship, which is what Ecuador and the United States should have," he said.

Trade between the United States and Ecuador totaled more than $16 billion last year, according to figures from the U.S. Census. About half of Ecuador's foreign trade depends on the United States. Analysts say the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which has allowed Ecuador to import and export goods with reduced tariffs, has fueled growth in trade and commerce between the two nations.

Obama won't scramble jets for Snowden
Website: Snowden criticized leakers
Obama covers his bases on Snowden

On Thursday, a U.S. State Department spokesman warned that Ecuador's economic ties with the United States could be in jeopardy if the South American country offers asylum to Snowden.

"What would not be a good thing is them granting Mr. Snowden asylum," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters. "That would have grave difficulties for a bilateral relationship."

He added that withdrawing from trade agreements isn't exactly an option for Ecuador.

"They're unilateral trade provisions that provide a benefit to certain Ecuadorian products," Ventrell said. "Whether they're renewed or not is a prerogative of the U.S. Congress."

Ecuador offers $23 million to the United States

The agreement is set to expire next month. Many believed it wouldn't be renewed, said Vicente Albornoz, dean of economics at the University of the Americas in Quito. That could make Correa's announcement Thursday a wise political move that will bolster his support at home, but cost the country relatively little, Albornoz said.

"He is giving up something that we did not have, because it was evident that the ATPDEA was not going to be renewed," Albornoz said. "It's like if I withdraw from winning the lottery when I haven't bought a ticket, and I announce that I won't accept first prize."

Jorge Leon, an Ecuadorian sociologist, warned that Ecuador's role in the Snowden case could have a chilling effect on investors.

"Ecuador is searching for investors, and this image of going more and more to a radical position on the left does not generate tranquility," he said.

But the Snowden case and Ecuador's decision last year to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have helped Correa promote his image as a leftist leader in the region, Leon said.

"They help him gain credibility on the leftist scene," Leon said.

On Thursday, Ecuadorian officials offered to give $23 million annually -- roughly the same amount officials said that Ecuador receives in benefits from the tariff deal -- to the United States. The money, Communications Secretary Fernando Alvarado told reporters Thursday morning, could be used for human rights training.

By Thursday evening, Correa didn't show any sign of changing his government's tune, vowing to make the decision regarding Snowden's asylum request with absolute sovereignty and without regard to any trade deals or other international pressures.

"Our dignity," he said, "doesn't have a price."

CNN's Adriana Hauser, Matthew Chance and Michael Pearson and journalist Andres Lopez contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Data mining & privacy
updated 10:25 AM EDT, Sun June 23, 2013
He's a high-school dropout who worked his way into the most secretive computers in U.S. intelligence as a defense contractor.
updated 8:26 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Traitor or patriot? Low-level systems analyst or highly trained spy?
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
What are the takeaways from Snowden's NBC interview? You might be surprised.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Months after accepting asylum in Russia, Snowden asked Putin about Moscow's own surveillance practices.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
A federal judge has refused the Obama administration's request to extend storage of classified NSA telephone surveillance data beyond the current five-year limit.
updated 8:44 PM EDT, Sun March 9, 2014
From his sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange said that everyone in the world will be just as effectively monitored soon -- at least digitally.
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Mon March 10, 2014
In a rare public talk via the Web, fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden urged a tech conference audience to help "fix" the U.S. government's surveillance of its citizens.
updated 11:55 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The White House is "very disappointed" that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.
updated 8:57 AM EST, Tue December 10, 2013
Spies with surveillance agencies in the U.S. and U.K. infiltrated video games like "World of Warcraft" in a hunt for terrorists "hiding in plain sight" online.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Fri August 2, 2013
Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden both held jobs that gave them access to some of their country's most secret and sensitive intelligence. They chose to share that material with the world and are now paying for it.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The NSA's controversial intelligence-gathering programs have prevented 54 terrorist attacks around the world, including 13 in the United States.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
You've never heard of XKeyscore, but it definitely knows you. The National Security Agency's top-secret program essentially makes available everything you've ever done on the Internet.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Sun August 18, 2013
You may have never heard of Lavabit and Silent Circle. That's because they offered encrypted (secure) e-mail services, something most Americans have probably never thought about needing.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector, anywhere ... I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone."
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
President Barack Obama responds to outrage by European leaders over revelations of alleged U.S. spying.
updated 3:54 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Browse through a history of high-profile intelligence leaking cases.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Former President George W. Bush talks Snowden, AIDS, Mandela and his legacy.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Wed June 26, 2013
Edward Snowden took a job with an NSA contractor in order to gather evidence about U.S. surveillance programs.
updated 6:47 AM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
With reports of NSA snooping, many people have started wondering about their personl internet security.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Wed August 14, 2013
Click through our gallery to learn about other major leaks and what happened in the aftermath.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun June 9, 2013
What really goes on inside America's most secretive agency? CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.