September 9, 2008
It appears that the radical president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, is determined to terminate the presence of U.S. military and anti-drug agents in his country next year. It seems less likely all the time that he is just trying to bargain for a better deal. (See August 11.) The Washington Post gave one reason why Correa isn't worried about the economic losses if the 450 American personnel do leave his country, as planned: The Venezuelan government and a Hong Kong company are investing in development projects in the area around the coastal city of Manta, where the U.S. air base is located.
Subversive intentions by Venezuela (i.e., Hugo Chavez) almost go without saying. One wonders, however, whether the Chinese government is connected to that Hong Kong firm; that would raise the strategic stakes in Ecuador considerably. China has become increasingly involved in Latin American business in recent years, such as maintenance on the Panama Canal, in which the United States still has a vital interest.