28 May 2008

Ecuadorian Foreign Policy 2008

May 28, 2008 (Southern Affairs) -- Ecuadorian foreign policy is caught in a puzzling Catch 22. According to the Constitution of 1998, "The Foreign Service is in charge of conducting the international affairs of the Republic, pursuant to the Political Constitution of the State…"[1] but, as of September 30, 2007 this constitution was dissolved by a plenipotentiary Constitutional Assembly convoked to draft a new national charter.
In the mean time the system is run by a popular president and an Assembly dominated by the president's party Acuerdo Pais (AP). This situation makes some aspects of policy analysis difficult, but not impossible. While the institutional structure is not yet codified, it operates on the basic system established under the 1998 Constitution. Accordingly we will focus on those aspects of its policy that have influenced its behavior in the past and continue to generate pressure today.
What is Ecuador's current foreign policy?
In this section we will rely on the Foreign Ministry's 15 year policy plan known as Planex 2020. [2] Written on the eve of national elections in 2006, the plan is introspective and questions how Ecuador's foreign policy can best help the nation develop. Designed to "protect as much as possible the foreign actions of the State from the ups and downs of party policy, and to develop a coherent and lasting State policy, one of whose effects would be consolidating the credibility of Ecuador at international level." [3]
Given this focus, it is a good indicator of Ecuador's long term national interests without the political ideology that accompanies each presidential administration. While the document is currently official policy, like the rest of the national agenda, whether or not it will remain so is uncertain until the new Constitution is ratified. In the meantime the president of the republic and Mesa 9 of the Constitutional Assembly are the de facto authorities in foreign affairs.
As discussed earlier, Ecuador's historic foreign policy focused on several basic principles; non-intervention, national sovereignty, insistence on the rule of law and the rejection of the threat of force in international affairs. The 2006 plan adds the protection of emigrants, human rights, economic relations, security, culture, cooperation for development, and multilateral bodies. The current president has embraced some of these principles and diverged from others in his direction of the country since 2007.
In terms of non-intervention and national sovereignty the president has chosen to take a hard line against the United States, threatening to suspend the use of the dollar as the national currency, cancelling the bilateral FTA negotiations with the US and promising not to renew the contract for the US military base in Manta when it expires in 2009. [4]
While these actions are in line with policy goals of achieving national sovereignty and limiting foreign intervention, the method of execution has placed the president at odds with the economic goal of "consolidating the credibility of Ecuador at international level." The president has used the same anti-US techniques practiced by earlier 'populist' presidents to generate popular support for his policies, demonizing the US as an "imperial power" and accusing the US government of interference in internal politics. [5]
According to Oswaldo Hurtado, former president of Ecuador between 1981 and 1986, this attitude costs Ecuador credibility as a 'serious' member of the international community. [6]
In terms on the insistence on the rule of international law and the rejection of the threat of force in international affairs, the conflict with Colombia that broke out in March 2008 is illustrative of President Correa's stance on both issues.
He first used the threat of force by mobilizing Ecuador's military to the border area while simultaneously calling for a special meeting of the OAS. The show of force served to increase pressure and the forum of OAS was used to force Colombia to comply with its international obligations to respect Ecuador's borders. The strategy is essentially realist because of the implicit acceptance of force as a legitimate tool of international relations.
[1] Article 1, Ecuadorian National Constitution 1998 [2] Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Relations. Planex2020: National Foreign Policy Plan 2006 – 2020. Quito Oct 2006 [3] Planex 2020 [4] When asked by TeleSur, the Venezuelan TV channel run by the president of Mesa 9, Maria Augusta Calle, if the US was trying to block his election in Dec 2006 he said, [El Gobierno estadounidense sabe] "que nosotros no vamos a ser empleados de nadie (…) que vamos a hacer respetar la soberanía y al país y hemos dicho cosas muy concretas: que no vamos a formar el Tratado de Libre Comercio, que no permitiremos que al país se le involucre al plan Colombia y cuando culmine el convenio de la base militar norteamericana en la ciudad Manta en 2009 no se renovarán dichos convenios" TeleSur. "Rafael Correa asegura que EEUU quiere evitar su triunfo en Ecuador." 15 Oct 2006. Online. Accessed 7 May 2008 [5] TeleSur. "Rafael Correa asegura que EEUU quiere evitar su triunfo en Ecuador." 15 Oct 2006. Online. Accessed 7 May 2008 [6]Hurtado, Oswaldo. Personal Interview. Quito 6 Feb. 2008