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Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, replying to an appeal from Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, has agreed to begin a dialogue with the nations of South America over defense, security and other issues. Correa is the President Pro Tempore of UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations.
The importance of this action is that UNASUR has been taken in account for second time as the convening entity to interact with the U.S> Government. Last year at the Summit of the Americas, President Barack Obama met this counterparts under the UNASUR umbrella.

The Correa letter proposing the dialogue was the product of agreements reached among South American presidents and representatives at meetings in Quito in November and August in Bariloche, Argentina. While stimulated by widespread concern over the agreement between Colombia and the U.S. to give American planes and troops access to Colombian bases, the multi-nation conversations turned constructively to the idea of initiating talks on a range of mutual issues between UNASUR countries and the U.S. government.

“We regard this as a very positive development for both UNASUR countries and the United States. It provides a new context for airing issues that transcend national borders,” said Luis Gallegos, Ecuador’s Ambassador to the United States.

The treaty setting up UNASUR (”Tratado Constitutivo de la Unión de Naciones Suramericanas”) was signed on 23 May 2008 in Brasilia by the heads of state or government of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela. The treaty was inspired by the Declarations of Cuzco (8 December 2004), Brasilia (30 September 2005) and Cochabamba (9 December 2006). UNASUR aims at the cultural, social, economical and political integration of the South American peoples. The outgoing president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, was the first to hold its rotating presidency, which Ecuador’s President Correa assumed in 2009.

The Government of Ecuador and the Yasuni-ITT Initiative

Friday, January 15th, 2010

The Yasuní-ITT Initiative is a unique proposal for reducing global carbon emissions and preserving Ecuador’s rain forest and the environment, promoted by President Rafael Correa, who has given enthusiastic support for its implementation. It calls for careful stewardship of national resources in the Amazon River valley’s Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini region in a way that keeps oil reserves in the ground and calls instead for carefully managed sustainable development to benefit Ecuadorians in the region.

The project represents a great sacrifice of wealth by the Republic of Ecuador in foregoing drilling of known oil deposits in Yasuni National Park. In turn, the government has created a system through which other countries that benefit can contribute economically. The Government of Ecuador is committed to creating a Yasuni-ITT global trust to manage international contributions consistent with the country’s Constitution and national sovereignty. The Government will move forward briskly to resolve outstanding issues and create the trust as a critical step to fighting global climate change.

The Yasuni-ITT proposal is s a key priority of the Correa government.

Ecuador Envoy Honored for Human Rights Activism

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

Special to the Diplomatic Pouch contributed by Larry Luxner

Ecuador’s widely traveled ambassador to the United States — who’s served his country in places as diverse as Australia, Bulgaria and El Salvador — was honored Tuesday night for his work in helping disabled people around the globe.

Luís Benigno Gallegos Chiriboga, Quito’s man in Washington for more than four years, received a “special recognition for outstanding service to the cause of human rights and handicapped persons.” The lavish reception and dinner event — held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center — was organized by the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (GWHCC) and attracted a number of fellow ambassadors from Latin American countries.

Also in attendance was Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, as well as Arturo Valenzuela, who on Nov. 10 was sworn in as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Gallegos told the 85 invited guests that he and his wife Fabiola have for years been deeply committed to the cause of human rights.

“We have seen oppression of human liberties, the persecution of religious beliefs, the violence of war, the activities of death squads and the imposition of terror be it by state and non-state actors, the inequities of underdevelopment and hunger, the lack of education and health, and the enormous scenarios in which life tries the human effort of women, men and children,” he declared. “What we learned is that man can extend his hand in friendship or his fist in hate. That he can learn to kill, rape and destroy, and that it is harder for one to fight for values and defend a cause.”

Gallegos, 63, said that throughout his life, he’s focused on three areas of concern with regard to human rights: women, children and the disabled.

“Our societies oppress the indigenous and the disabled with an attitude of moral superiority that is terrible,” said the ambassador, noting that he had the “extraordinary opportunity” of chairing the U.N. General Assembly committee that negotiated the Convention on Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

“There are 650 million people with visible and non-visible disabilities,” he said. “You are born with a disability, you acquire it during your life by accident, sickness, war, underdevelopment and whatever other cause, but when you are old you will become disabled. The convention will permit these billions of persons to have enforceable rights, and I applaud President Obama’s decision to sign and ratify this convention.”

In addition to his native Spanish, Gallegos is fluent in French and speaks English with a Brooklyn accent (thanks to his early attendance at New York City high schools during the 1950s when his father was Ecuador’s ambassador to the United Nations). He said one of his most moving experiences was a 2003 visit to wartorn eastern Congo.

“There, I met the victims of a conflict that targets civilian populations, but more than that I met and cried and sang with women who were raped as a weapon of war,” he recalled. “It was a life-changing experience. To break the backbone of society, the enemy targets women. I saw and met child soldiers and I put a face on an issue which many would prefer to forget.”

Gallegos is now a member of the U.N. Committee Against Torture, Inhuman, Cruel and Degrading Treatments and Punishments, and is one of 10 experts that monitor individual countries’ compliance with the convention.

Another issue close to the ambassador’s heart is that of human rights and transnational corporations.

“I wrote my doctoral thesis on rights and transnational corporations, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be fighting for the existence of my people against such powerful organizations,” he said. “I belong to a leadership group with Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson and 10 others that tries to foster the doctrine of protect, respect and remedy that would permit business to work under human rights guidelines in the world.”

It so happens that Ecuador is the focus of one of the planet’s biggest legal battles between big business and environmentalists. Petroleum giant Chevron Corp. faces a $27 billion lawsuit stemming from ecological damage at oilfields once operated by Texaco — which Chevron acquired in 2001 — in remote areas of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest.

In accepting the GWHCC award, Gallegos praised his wife Fabiola as his spiritual companion.

“She is the one who picks up the pieces and gives me the strength to continue in a quest that I hope will end when we close our eyes for the last time,” he said. “For we deeply believe that the dignity of the human essence is a cause that we must pursue as a moral and ethical obligation.”



Thursday, October 8th, 2009

The Embassy of Ecuador to the United States reports that the Police of the Province of Tungurahua and local prosecutors are investigating the distressing case of Daniela López, Los Angeles resident, whose body was found on September 10th 2009 in the city of Ambato.

The case is being handled by the Third Court of Criminal Guarantees of Tungurahua, which is in the process of looking for evidence to help solve this case and avoid this crime to go unpunished.

The Ecuadorian Embassy extends to the parents and relatives of Daniela Lopez warm feelings of solidarity during this very difficult time.

Washington D.C., October 8, 2009


Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Ecuador turns 200 years old today. To commemorate the country’s bicentennial, the Embassy of Ecuador in the United States and the Permanent Mission of Ecuador to the Organization of American States unveiled a bust of Eloy Alfaro in the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Aztec Garden today. The statue also commemorates the centennial anniversary of the Trans-Andean Railroad and 100 years of pan-Americanism.

“The purpose of commemorating the bicentennial is to consolidate the historical identity of Ecuador and to strengthen Latin American identity,” said Ambassador Efrén Cocíos Jaramillo, Permanent Representative of Ecuador to the OAS

On August 10, 1809, a revolutionary movement in Ecuador installed a government in Quito that was determined by the Ecuadorian people, and local Spanish authorities ceased to be recognized. The Quito Revolution was pioneering in Latin America, not only because it established its own government, but also because it managed to create a new democratic state, which led to the creation of Ecuador’s Constitution on February 15, 1812.

“We believe that the Ecuadorian community in Washington deserves to have a landmark that embodies the presence of Ecuador in the United States,” said Luis Gallegos, Ecuador’s Ambassador to the United States. “So, in honor of the Bicentennial, we are presenting this bust of Eloy Alfaro, one of the most important leaders in the history of Ecuador and Latin America, at the OAS.”

Eloy Alfaro was a renowned military officer and politician who was President of Ecuador from 1897-1901 and 1906-1911. His government modernized the Ecuadorian army and finished the construction of the Trans-Andean Railroad that unites Guayaquil and Quito. Alfaro was the forerunner of the Ecuadorian Liberal Revolution whose main achievement was the separation of Church and State. He also codified legal marriage, legalized divorce, built numerous public schools, set forth the right to secular and free education, and established freedom of speech.

Next year will also be the centennial of the Pan-American Union, the forerunner of the OAS, and the completion of the Trans-Andean Railroad under President Alfaro. The Trans-Andean Railroad was born out of an initiative of the First Inter-American Conference from 1889-1890 that created the Pan American Railway Committee with the objective of “uniting the Americas with rails,” thus promoting the spirit of Pan-Americanism.

After 100 years, the railroad is a symbol of Ecuador’s national unity because it links the two most important regions of the country. Additionally, the railroad represents a joint project between Ecuador and the United States. Similar to the construction of the Panama Canal, the arrival of the first train to Quito required the technology, management systems, and knowledge of public health that were developed in great projects within Ecuador and the United States.