Ecuador’s Congress Asks U.S. To Pull Troops Out
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) _ The government on Thursday rejected as unconstitutional a congressional motion requesting that U.S. troops leave the country immediately.
About 600 unarmed U.S. Army reservists and National Guardsmen were sent to Ecuador in April to repair roads and bridges damaged by a series of earthquakes March 5-6.
Equador’s opposition-controlled Congress approved the motion 35-28 on Wednesday. Eight of the 71 members were absent or abstained.
Left-of-center parties in Congress have charged that the presence of the U.S. soldiers violates Ecuador’s sovereignty. Leftist congressmen have alleged the United States is building a permanent military base in the eastern Amazon jungle, where the troops are working. Government officials deny the allegations.
Minister of Information Marco Lara said at a news conference Thursday that the motion seeking their removal is unconstitutional because only the president has the power to decide foreign policy.
The U.S. Embassy on Thursday refused comment on the action. But U.S. Ambassador Fernando Rondon said last week that if ″they do not want us here, we will go.″
Vice President George Bush offered the troops to President Leon Febres Cordero during a tour in March of areas affected by the earthquakes.
Earlier this week, Cordero said the troops would remain in Ecuador until the accord he signed with Bush had expired. The U.S. Embassy said the troops are scheduled to leave in October.
More than 1,000 people were killed or disappeared in the earthquakes, which caused more than $1 billion damage.