Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has expressed optimism that the ongoing talks to restore U.S.-Ecuadorian diplomatic relations will be resolved before the end of this year. Relations were downgraded five months ago to the charge d’affaires level but, in an encouraging sign, both countries recently nominated ambassadors for their respective embassies. U.S. President Barack Obama named career diplomat Adam Namm yesterday to be the ambassador in Quito, while Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa tapped Nathalie Cely, minister of coordination and production, over the weekend for the ambassadorship in Washington.
Patino revealed that Namm will have the consent of the Ecuadorian government to assume his post, although Namm still requires approval from the U.S. Senate. Cely’s nomination is still pending approval from Washington. During a press conference, Patino said, “We have maintained contact with the State Department and gradually advanced to this level of recovery.”
Bilateral relations hit a low point in April when a WikiLeaks cable from 2009 was published in the Ecuadorian newspaper El País, which revealed U.S. concerns of corruption among high-level national police officials and knowledge of such by President Correa. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Ambassador Heather Hodges was expelled from Ecuador, and in response Ecuadorian Ambassador Luis Gallegos was declared persona non grata in Washington, resulting in the formal downgrading of relations.
The tweeting Georgetown academic, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela, announced his departure in early May. Four months later, the United States still does not have a nominee.
Of course, several well-qualified people have been bandied about as Valenzuela’s possible replacement.
Here’s a brief rundown of who’s been mentioned:
First, there is Kristie Kenney, a highly regarded career Foreign Service officer, a former ambassador to Ecuador, and, as of January, ambassador to Thailand. She is well-known for her social media smarts. There is also William Brownfield who is Kenney’s husband and equally as charismatic and talented as his wife. He is a former ambassador to Colombia, Venezuela and Chile, and became assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs in January. And there is Anne Patterson, a career foreign service officer with extensive and varied experience in Latin America. She has proven herself adept at dealing with tough issues especially in her current post as the ambassador to Egypt.
Honduras’ deposed President Mel Zelaya was here in Washington the week prior to Labor Day urging the United States, without a hint of irony, to re-install him in power as soon as possible. At the same time, he told a late summer audience that as the diplomatic process grinds on without clear prospects for resolution, he was building support for another attempt to re-enter Honduras. His last two attempts having failed, first by air and then by land, his next option would appear to be by sea, a la Fidel’s famous journey in the Granma. At the very least, this would do away with a reprise of the Honduran version of the hokey-pokey (you put your right foot in, you take your right foot out, you put your left foot in and then you shake it all about….), or the Python-esque flying circus aspects of his first attempt in July. On a more serious note, though, during his visit Zelaya also pointedly refused to speculate to the Washington Post’s Mary Beth Sheridan whether or not violence would be a part of his ramped up strategy of return.
Nonetheless, on September 3 the State Department announced the termination of assistance to Honduras and revoked additional visas. Prejudging the November elections, Department spokesman Ian Kelly also said that the United States would not be able to support their outcome, suggesting that they would be illegitimate unless a positive conclusion of the Arias process had already occurred.