Ecuador Rejects U.S. Trade Preferences in Fight Over Snowden’s Fate

QUITO, Ecuador (The Miami Herald/MCT) -

In an escalating struggle over the fate of NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, Ecuador announced Thursday that it’s unilaterally giving up U.S. trade preferences and it offered to send the United States $23 million a year for human rights training.

“Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone and does not negotiate its principles or submit to commercial pressure, as important as it might be,” Minister of Communications Fernando Alvarado said at a press conference. “Ecuador renounces unilaterally and irrevocably those trade preferences.”

Under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, 247 Ecuadoran goods — including canned tuna, roses and broccoli — worth about $223 million enter the United States tax free every year. Those preferences are up for renewal in July and U.S. members of Congress had said they might be at risk if Ecuador grants Snowden the political asylum he has requested. Alvarado said the trade preferences were meant to compensate Andean nations for their efforts in the drug war but have turned into tools for “blackmail.”

He said the preferences represent a savings of about $23 million and that Ecuador would send the same amount to the United States every year to train the country on how to avoid “espionage, torture, extrajudicial killings and other acts that denigrate humanity.”

The government also denied reports that Snowden is traveling with Ecuadoran papers. WikiLeaks had said that Snowden was traveling with Ecuadoran refugee documents after the United States revoked his passport. Betty Tola, Ecuador’s political secretary, said any Ecuadoran documents Snowden might be carrying “have no validity whatsoever.” She also said they cannot begin processing his asylum request until he’s in Ecuadoran territory.

Ecuador is the only country that has acknowledged receiving an asylum request. But on Wednesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said his country would “most likely” give Snowden asylum if he asked for it.