- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2002

Campaigning for Ecuador

Ecuador's former ambassador to the United States returned this week to seek support for her presidential campaign from Ecuadoreans living legally and illegally in this country.

Ivonne A-Baki, who hopes to become Ecuador's first female leader, told Embassy Row yesterday that Ecuadoreans in the United States have asked her to lobby Congress for legislation that will grant amnesty to those here in violation of immigration laws.

"They need to have legal status," she said, adding that she planned to meet Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. David Dreier, California Republican and chairman of the Rules Committee.

Mrs. A-Baki said a half-million Ecuadoreans reside in the United States, but there are no figures on how many are illegal aliens. However, legal or not, they can vote in the first round of the election on Oct. 19 at Ecuadorean diplomatic missions. She also expects a runoff election on Nov. 24 because none of the 11 candidates expects to gain a majority in the first round.

Mrs. A-Baki said she is running to eliminate corruption, promote the rule of law, create jobs, and support health and education.

"I want to stop poverty and corruption," she said. "As a woman, I understand the importance of education and health for children.

"There are three pillars of democracy," she added, listing jobs, education, and individual and property rights. "We don't have any of these."

Mrs. A-Baki also agreed with Cesar Gaviria, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, who said last week that democracy had failed to benefit the poor and the middle classes in Latin America.

"We change presidents like we change shirts," Mrs. A-Baki said.

She also called on the United States to pay more attention to Latin America, which is rich in oil and other natural resources.

"The United States doesn't have to ever look at the Middle East," she said. "It's all in Latin America."

Mrs. A-Baki's next stop on her U.S. campaign is New York, where pop singer Christina Aguilera, who has Ecuadorean roots, and other entertainers will perform for her at Trump Plaza.

Aid to Pakistan

President Bush pledged to work for an additional $1 billion in debt relief for Pakistan this week when he met the new ambassador of the key South Asian ally in the anti-terror war.

Mr. Bush told Ambassador Jehangir Ashraf Qazi that Pakistan is a "vital and stalwart friend and a key partner for the United States."

He noted that the United States provided $600 million in aid in response to Pakistan's support for the campaign against al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban hosts in neighboring Afghanistan.

He also promised "hundreds of millions of dollars" in educational and health aid.

"Over the longer term, these initiatives will build Pakistan's human resource base, make your country more attractive to investors, expand Pakistan's potential to attract higher value-added industries and widen the prospects for ordinary Pakistanis to lead better lives," Mr. Bush said.

Thanks to Serbia

President Bush has written Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic to thank him for supporting the war against terrorism, the Yugoslav Embassy said.

"The U.S. people are deeply grateful to the premier and to the Serbian people for their immense contribution to the campaign of ridding the world of terrorism," he said in his recent letter.

"Serbia's firm decision to help means that we will be working together on building a world that appreciates people and offers them a future full of freedom and faith."

Pact with Russia

The United States and Russia this week pledged cooperation in law enforcement and in the war on drugs.

U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow and Anatoly Safonov of the Russian Foreign Ministry signed the agreement for $1.9 million in U.S. funds for Russian police agencies. The money includes $450,000 to increase security along the border with Kazakhstan to prevent the flow of drugs from Central Asia.

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