- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2011


The Obama administration retaliated against the leftist government of Equador Thursday by expelling Ambassador Luis Gallegos, two days after the South American nation kicked out the U.S. ambassador.

“The unjustified action of the Ecuadorean government in declaring Ambassdor [Heather] Hodges persona non grata left us no other option than this reciprocal action,” said State Department spokesman Charles Luoma-Overstreet.

Mr. Gallegos has been Ecuador’s ambassador here since September 2005. Arturo Valenzuela, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, also declared Mr. Gallegos persona non grata.

Literally meaning an “unwelcomed person,” the diplomatic censure requires an ambassador to leave a foreign country as soon as possible. Frequently such diplomatic disputes are resolved, and ambassadors return to their posts.

Ecuador on Tuesday expelled Ms. Hodges after a Spanish newspaper, El Pais, reported on a classified cable she wrote two years ago, in which she accused President Rafael Correa of tolerating corruption.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced her expulsion in a press conference in the capital, Quito, without first informing Ms. Hodges privately. The expulsion followed a tense meeting on Monday, when Mr. Patino called the U.S. career diplomat to the Foreign Ministry to explain the cable, which was published by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

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.”


The British ambassador sounded like a supply-side cheerleader on a recent trade mission to Florida.

Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a conservative Republican, to talk about British investment in the Sunshine State, which levies no personal income tax. Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is slashing spending and cutting taxes in hopes of spurring economic expansion.

“Corporate tax will decrease from 28 percent to 24 percent by 2014, the lowest in the G7,” Mr. Sheinwald told reporters, referring to the group of seven most-industrialized nations.

“And we are going further, by applying a lower rate of 10 percent on profits from newly commercialized patents. We are also cutting nearly 200 regulatory bodies and agencies.

“We mean it when we say Britain is open for business.”

Florida has a 5.5 percent corporate flat-tax rate, which ranks 39th among the 50 U.S. states. The U.S. corporate tax rate of 39.2 percent could become the highest in the world this month, if Japan, as expected, lowers its rate of 39.5 percent, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington.

Mr. Sheinwald noted that Britain and Florida have something to attract each other.

“You are a gateway for the Caribbean and for Latin America. We are the gateway for American international companies that want to trade into Europe,” he said.

“I think there may be other examples, as we look into this more and we develop this spectrum of British companies, and European companies for that matter, that will want to have a foothold here and involve themselves more in the area.”

Mr. Sheinwald added that the expansion of the Panama Canal also will make Florida ports more attractive to British merchant ships. The project aims to double the canal’s capacity by 2014.

“It will clearly provide more options for, and will clearly make the transport of merchandise goods … more competitive and cheaper for companies once the expansion of the Panama Canal is opened,” he said.

“And presumably, as you develop more modern and efficient port facilities here in Florida and the Gulf Coast, thats going to help our shipping industry and our trade services all the way through.”

* Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email [email protected]

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