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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

ECUADOR EXPELS U.S. ENVOY

Ecuador expelled U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges on Tuesday after a Spanish newspaper published a classified diplomatic cable she had written that accused leftist President Rafael Correa of tolerating corruption.

Ms. Hodges, a career diplomat, learned of her expulsion when Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced it at a news conference. On Monday, Mr. Patino summoned her to his office to complain about the publication of the cable in El Pais newspaper in Madrid but made no mention about kicking her out of the South American country.

The Spanish newspaper based its story on a 2009 cable released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

The Ecuadorean Embassy in Washington stressed that the diplomatic dispute is with Ms. Hodges, not with the Obama administration.

"It is unfortunate that the published documents on WikiLeaks have made it impossible to continue collaborating with the current ambassador ..., but we hope to work with a new ambassador," the embassy said.

Ms. Hodges, ambassador to Ecuador since July 2008, said in the cable that Mr. Correa was aware of the "supposed acts of corruption by members of the police leadership and more specifically the former commander of the institution, Jaime Hurtado Vaca."

She said Mr. Hurtado used his office to "extort cash and property, misappropriate public funds, facilitate human trafficking and obstruct the investigation and prosecution of corrupt colleagues."

She urged the State Department to strip Mr. Hurtado of his U.S. visa.

In another leaked cable, the ambassador accused Mr. Correa of growing more anti-American after developing close ties with Cuba, Venezuela and Iran.

Ms. Hodges is the second U.S. ambassador to fall victim to a WikiLeaks disclosure.

Last month, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, resigned after Mexican President Felipe Calderon publicly vented his outrage over criticism of his administration in another U.S. diplomatic cable.

JUSTICE FOR SOME

The U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria on Tuesday criticized the country's judicial system as "dishonest," "corrupt" and tilted toward the rich. The country's two top legal officials immediately dismissed his remarks as an insult to the judiciary.

"There are two justice systems in this country," Ambassador James Warlick said at a legal forum. "One is for the affluent, who remain above the law and often bypass justice. The other is for the poor and ordinary Bulgarians."

Referring to the practices of Germany and Switzerland, he also urged the Bulgarian government to confiscate the property of convicted criminals.

Those countries have "strong legislation, enabling them to freeze the assets of criminals," he said.

Bulgaria's chief prosecutor, Boris Velchev, and the president of the Supreme Court, Lazar Gruev, denounced the ambassador's remarks, according to news reports from the capital, Sofia.

"We are bewildered by the position of [Mr. Warlick] that Bulgaria has two judicial systems," they said in a statement.

"Ambassador Warlick's thesis is completely unfounded and unacceptable, and, what is more, it insults the magistrates in Bulgaria."

Mr. Warlick's comments at a forum titled "National Security: The Strategic Dimensions of Crime" mark the second time in a month that he has criticized the government.

In early March, the ambassador denounced discrimination against Gypsies, or Roma, who are frequently despised throughout Europe.

"The Roma are also Bulgarian citizens who are entitled to their rights," he said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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