He isthe architect of the turn in the international politics of Ecuador. ChancellorJosé Valencia, with the prudence that characterizes career diplomats, talksabout the differences between his work and the behavior of the last decade inthe Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In dialogue with newspaper EXPRESO, theofficial took the opportunity to make clear the fence surrounding cases such asthe escape of Fernando Alvarado and the asylum of Julian Assange.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs manages the greatest distance if compared to the previous government. What is the vision of what was found and where is it going?
The decisions I make are guided and governed by the decision of President Lenin Moreno. He is the head of the country’s international action. I try to be proactive to execute those guidelines.
How to deal with the work of embassies and consulates when the Government is in time of austerity?
I have had to preside over the Chancellery in a complex period in terms of budget. In April of this year there was a budget cut of 10%. In June, a few days after I took over the portfolio, there was another 10% cut. In August, in addition, there was a new cut of 10%. It is a 30% adjustment only in this year that is explained by the need of the State to adapt to the conditions of income. This leads us to reduce personnel and optimize expenses in offices abroad. The issue of resources is not easy for any ministry.
Was it spent too much earlier? You have a cut of 30% but they are still working …
Yes effectively. When there are resources you can commit or enter into expenses that are not justified. I remember when I was an ambassador in South Africa, receiving DHL publications on Ecuadorian issues. I’m not saying that the publications did not work, but instead of sending by DHL they could be sent by normal mail. It takes longer but they were not urgent for the Embassy.
What is the current cost of the Chancellery?
Last year, 136 million dollars were used. This year, to September, 90 million have been executed.
Is Unasur also a strong source of expenditures for Ecuador?
Ecuador donated the building and then for the financing of the personnel each State makes a contribution adjusted to the characteristics of each country. Ecuador pays a part and at this moment there is no money to keep the secretariat. We have stated that the Ecuadorian contribution of the building is excessive and cannot be maintained. We would be very sorry that this work deteriorates and we are willing to offer a smaller alternative location.
What to do with this multilateral organization?
Unasur is the result of the agreement of 12 countries. Now 11 after Colombia leaving. The decisions must be taken as a collective and that is clear to us. What we do have as a country is a vision that we hope will be carried out in a joint way. We have proposed not to deceive ourselves: we are in crisis. We cannot close our eyes to a reality: there is a crisis in the organization and the way forward is to rethink the agenda we have. There are issues that have gone well in Unasur such as infrastructure and connection, coordination of public health, energy issues, security, coordination of natural disasters, among others. On that basis, a more pragmatic and positive agenda can be built. Leaving aside the divergences.
Does this position generate more friction with Venezuela?
We have a sovereign position in international relations. We respect the decisions that other countries make in this respect, but we also demand respect. We do not believe that what we decide may merit a questioning from another country. Ecuador will not tolerate that.
Has that country, or any other country, given asylum to Fernando Alvarado?
It is a case that concerns the administration of justice. Ecuador still does not have any official information regarding an asylum. We would be surprised if someone thinks to grant Mr. Alvarado political asylum because he is a person who has broken justice, who has broken the law. Asylum cannot be given to someone who has committed a common crime.
Another controversial asylum is the one of Julian Assange. Are you complying with the norms set by the Ecuadorian Government?
I do not have any news. The protocol is in effect since October and must be in compliance because I do not have any reports. If Mr. Assange hypothetically violates these rules, it will be considered within the framework of international law.
What consequences would a breach have?
Depends on the type of non-compliance. There are minor offenses, but if you breach the protocol [in a serious way], Ecuador will have no other option than to end the asylum. That corresponds, and I want to be emphatic, to the international law on diplomatic asylum.
His new vision of international politics reverberated in a strong approach with the United States…
We have sought to revitalize relations with the United States. It is a wide relationship and I think it was very important for the two countries the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to President Moreno. It allowed a dialogue at the highest level. This facilitates fluency and dynamics. We have several areas of cooperation such as security. Drug trafficking is a serious and international issue that deserves international combat work. We Ecuadorians do not want there to be drugs in the country, not even in transit. The Americans do not want consumption to increase in their country either.
The critics of their management consider that the approach to the United States violates the Ecuadorian sovereignty …
That is a thesis that we reject outright. We do not depend on any country. With all the countries of the world we have coincidences and we can have divergences but it is clear that this Foreign Ministry, while I am chancellor, will not have external influence for the determination of its international action.
In the judicial process that dealt with the Assange issue, He mentioned the weight of Pence’s visit in the country’s position on the asylee. Was there interference?
We havebeen outraged, and very much, that there are suggestions that the country’saction is determined by the United States. That statement was made in thecontext of a judicial process and therefore no action can be taken. But if theywere said outside of a judicial process that amounted to the accusation of acrime and the Ecuadorian State will respond with absolute firmness if thathappens. (I)