Interview with Michael Fitzpatrick, US Ambassador to Ecuador. Fitzpatrick was between 2016 and 2018 Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs in charge of the Andean Region, Brazil and the Southern Cone. He was also the ad interim representative of the United States before the Organization of American States (OAS) between 2014 and 2016.
The previous ambassador said that we must help the government. What does that mean now that you are in charge of the Embassy?
I would like to thank Todd Chapman, not only for his performance as ambassador but also for having the opportunity to accompany President Lenin Moreno in all that the Ecuadorian government has wanted to do and wants to keep with the US. as a partner. My personal challenge is to find ways that can boost even more the bilateral relations that are now excellent, to continue and maintain the areas of collaboration so that Ecuador is democratic, secure and prosperous.
Ambassador Francisco Carrión defined this stage as having advanced from surprise to confidence. Do you feel that way?
I agree with Ambassador Carrión, we are entering a new stage of confidence and we must continue to build on that. It is true that there have been moments of surprise on both sides, frankly. What happens is that when there are more approaches of two parts, there are more possibilities to minimize the surprise and if there is more communication there is better mutual understanding and better possibilities of acting together. I would like to energize these areas of collaboration. But I also want to look for new areas that might be a surprise. Precisely because we have been apart for so long.
The migration issue is not yet tuned. What should there be between Ecuador and the United States? so that there is a new or a better migration policy?
It is true that it is a sensitive issue. In any country. Obviously in the USA and in Ecuador. Each country has its migration challenges, each country, each nation has an obligation to protect its citizens and when there is migration that is in an orderly, safe and legal way for all.
There is no longer any restriction for Ecuadorians to go to Mexico. Will the relationship between Ecuador and the US be affected, since there is a space to cross to your country?
Maybe. Everything depends on Ecuadorian travelers. If they wish to enter illegally, this may have an effect. If you travel to enjoy Mexico, there is no problem. Every time we see that there are more and more family ties between Ecuador and the US. I think there are more than a million Ecuadorians who have relatives in the United States. And every time there is a greater flow of students, of tourists, in both directions. Today I go to Cuenca, where there is a high number of Americans. Americans must also respect all migratory laws in Ecuador.
What will the US collaboration be? to solve the regional problem of drug trafficking?
It’s a global problem. It affects us all. No country can fix the drug trafficking problem by working alone. Always look for ways to collaborate internationally. Now with President Moreno there is more interest in collaborating in new areas. It can be training, maritime patrol, not only for the drug issue but for the environment. We have a new program in Guayaquil for container safety that is a priority. I do not speak only at the level of governments, but with the private sector.
Is there a desire to have a US military base in Ecuador?
Allow me to speak frankly and clearly. We have no interest in building or signing an agreement to establish a military base in Ecuador. Final point. We want to collaborate with the Government, with society in the fight against several international scourges, but that does not mean that there will be a US military base in Ecuador.
How many planes will come to Ecuador to help control the coast?
Everything depends on the Government of Ecuador. We have offered since September 2018 maritime patrols, basically surveillance flights and that all the information is shared so that the officers of Ecuador can act in real time to counteract the narco-traffickers. We also have limitations on planes and equipment, and it also depends on how the drug traffickers react. The defense minister said that Galapagos is a natural aircraft carrier.
What do you deserve the reactions that came after?
I have not had the opportunity to meet the minister. I was not here when he said it either. I will not react to the subject. It is the power of the Government of Ecuador to decide how, when and in what ways they want our support or help in the fight against narcotics. The idea that there are areas where you can collaborate is interesting, as long as it is in line with the Constitution and the protection of the environment, as in the case of the Galapagos.
What is your policy to strengthen trade?
USA is the number one partner of Ecuador. This is not going to change. We want to deepen them, expand the market of the two countries with more exchange. In certain areas, Ecuador has a great advantage, in agriculture for example, because we import more vegetables and fruits than we send to Ecuador. Today I saw, for example, the US angus meat in the supermarket, but it was face. That has to be improved. We will expand the variety of products in the two countries, we will improve the prices in the two countries. When there is the political will of the two parties there are many possibilities. And that’s where we are now. It’s a good moment? It is a fantastic moment.