Clinton Seeks Better U.S. Ties With Chavez Ally in Trip to Latin America

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quoted Latin American independence heroes Simon Bolivar and Jose Marti today in a visit to Ecuador as she sought to improve U.S. relations with an ally of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s ties with the U.S. deteriorated after he announced the expulsion of two American embassy officials in February 2009, citing interference in the country’s internal affairs, and refused to renew the U.S. lease at the Manta military base, which expired in 2009.

Clinton’s visit is aimed at breaking down a division between the U.S. and Colombia on one side, and “Bolivarian” nations such as Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador that are allied with Venezuela, said Christopher Sabatini, a senior director at the Council of the Americas, a New York-based policy group.

“This is trying to send a signal to all of the Bolivarian countries that if they abide by institutional rules and cooperate with the U.S. in some areas, they can have a positive relationship,” Sabatini said.

Correa could get trade benefits through an extension of the Andean Trade Promotion & Drug Eradication Act or an increase in development aid as a result of the visit, Sabatini said.

Clinton compared Latin America’s recent economic growth with the difficulties in the U.S. and Europe.

“If I’d told you 10 years ago that leaders in the United States and Europe would be taking some well-deserved advice on economic management from some of our Latin American counterparts, a lot of people might not have believed me,” Clinton said in a speech at Quito’s Metropolitan Cultural Center, according to prepared remarks distributed to reporters.

Clinton is in Ecuador as part of a four-day trip to the region.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Bristow in Lima at mbristow5@bloomberg.net

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