By Alexandra Valencia

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa ordered a U.S. Embassy official expelled on Saturday [ April 18th] after accusing him of interfering in the country’s affairs, a move that will test ties with Washington.

Correa, a leftist, has generally kept good relations with the United States as his socialist allies in Bolivia and Venezuela often clash with Washington over what they say is U.S. "imperialism" in Latin America.

"Foreign minister, give this gentleman 48 hours to pack up his suitcases and get out of the country," Correa said during his weekly media address. "We’re not going to let anyone treat us as if we were a colony here."

He said U.S. official Armando Astorga had abruptly ended a financing agreement with local police after authorities rejected his attempts to handpick officers he wanted to manage the U.S. aid projects.

"Mr. Astorga, keep your dirty money. We don’t need it. We have dignity in this country," Correa said. "Ecuador doesn’t need charity from anyone."

The U.S. State Department was aware of the announcement and checking into it, spokesman Fred Lash said.

The United States is Ecuador’s main trading partner and the destination for much of its petroleum and banana exports.

Correa, a U.S.-trained economist who faces reelection in April, has bolstered his strong popularity in the past by taking a tough stance against what he deems to be interference from neighboring governments or multinational companies.

There has been tension with Washington since Correa vowed not to renew a lease ending this year on a coastal air base used by U.S. forces for counternarcotics missions.

Correa said on Saturday he would allow U.S. Coast Guard planes to land there if needed, but only if Ecuador was allowed to approve of the pilots.

The former college professor is known for his quick temper, ejecting a journalist from a live interview and ordering the arrest of people he charged had hurled insults or made offensive gestures at his presidential motorcade.

Correa has been tough on foreign companies by repeatedly threatening to expel them over contractual disagreements or legal disputes. Last year, he kicked out Brazilian building firm Odebrecht and sent troops to seize its projects in Ecuador.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a standard-bearer for anti-U.S. sentiment, last year expelled the U.S. ambassador to Caracas and Bolivian President Evo Morales kicked out the U.S. envoy in September after accusing him of fanning civil unrest.

Source: canada.com