Ecuador's anti-American government has seized on its most popular export to the United States to warn President Obama not to retaliate if the Latin American nation grants asylum to secrets leaker Edward Snowden: roses.
The administration of Rafael Correa has considered providing a safe haven for Snowden, and the administration and Republican critics on Capitol Hill are considering ways to strike back, including killing a trade deal between the nations. Just Monday, Correa again did not rule out helping Snowden. In an interview with Al Jazeera, he said if Snowden got to an Ecuadoran facility, asylum would be considered.
Facing threats from the U.S., though, Ecuador thinks it has a trump card: rose exports. About 30 percent of roses sold in the United States come from Ecuador and the country's ambassador to the U.S., Nathalie Cely Suarez is suggesting they might be cut off if the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act is killed or allowed to expire this summer.
Referring to suggestions that the trade deal might be nixed because of Correa's anti-American rhetoric, his protection of WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange holed up in Ecuador's London embassy, and now the possibility of granting asylum to Snowden, Cely suggested it would hurt the U.S. too.
In an interview with the newspaper Washington Diplomat, she said, "If this happens it could have a huge impact on Ecuador. We provide 30 percent of the roses to the U.S. market. Think how important this trade is for places like Miami and Los Angeles."
She also told the paper that cutting Ecuador off would end up wasting American tax dollars already spent in her country. "After all the money the U.S. has invested in Ecuador, all we're asking is to cooperate and keep our access to this market," said Cely.
Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com.