U.S. Ambassador In Ecuador Asked To Leave Over WikiLeaks Cable

The Ecuadorian government on Tuesday declared the U.S. ambassador in their country, Heather Hodges, persona non grata and asked her to leave Ecuador as soon as possible, the state-run Andes news agency reported. The decision was based on a State Department cable leaked by WikiLeaks.

U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Heather Hodges (R), Ecuador's Justice Minister Gustavo Jalk and Ecuador's Foreign Minister Fander Falconi (L) arrive to sign an agreement and accord letters in the fight against drug trafficking and international crime in Quito August 25, 2009.

Ecuador said Tuesday it was expelling the U.S. ambassador following the publication of a diplomatic cable divulged by WikiLeaks in which the envoy accuses Ecuador's just-retired police chief of corruption.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced the action in a news conference.

One of his advisers, Agustin Armas, told The Associated Press that Ambassador Heather Hodges had been declared "persona non grata," diplomatic language for expulsion

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Martha Youth said the embassy had no immediate comment.

Hodges had been called to the Foreign Ministry by Patino on Monday afternoon and issued a diplomatic note complaining about the cable but she only learned of her expulsion through the public announcement, said a U.S. official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge the information.

In the cable released by WikiLeaks, dated July 10. 2009 and published by the Madrid newspaper El Pais on Monday, Hodges recommends that Jaime Aquilino Hurtado, national police commander from April 2008 to June 2009, be stripped of his U.S. visa.

The cable says he used the position "to extort cash and property, misappropriate public funds, facilitate human trafficking and obstruct the investigation and prosecution of corrupt colleagues."

Separately, Hodges comments in the cable that "corruption among Ecuadorian National Police officers is widespread and well-known" with corruption becoming "more pronounced at higher levels of power."

The cable says internal Ecuadorean police investigations had suggested Hurtado was engaged in "corrupt activities within the ENP since the early 1990s."

AP