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  • Ecuadoreans protested against the decision of the government to let US military use airport in Galapagos Islands.

    Ecuadoreans protested against the decision of the government to let US military use airport in Galapagos Islands. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 June 2019

Ecuadoreans protested against the government decision of allowing an airport in the Galapagos Islands to be used by the U.S. military.

Protests have erupted in Ecuador after the right-wing government allowed anti-narcotic planes of the United States to use San Cristobal airport of the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago renowned for its biodiversity and for inspiring Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

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Dozens of people gathered in the capital city Quito Monday to protest against the decision which they described as a threat to the world heritage site and an attack on Ecuador’s sovereignty. It is also unconstitutional to allow the presence of a foreign army in the country.

According to article five of the 2008 Constitution, Ecuador declares itself as a territory of peace, where "the establishment of foreign military bases or foreign installations for military purposes will not be allowed. In addition, it is prohibited to cede national military bases to foreign armed or security forces."

This is not the first time that U.S. military planes operated from Ecuador.

On September 2018, a Lockheed P-3 Orion intelligence-gathering plane from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency began to operate from Ecuador. While a Boeing 707 aircraft from the U.S. air force, carrying a long-range radar surveillance and control center (AWAC), will now also be “patrolling” the Pacific off Ecuador's coast.

Former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa criticized the measure saying, “Galapagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use. It is an Ecuadorian province, world heritage site, homeland.”

Correa closed a U.S. military base in Manta in 2008 and amended the constitution to ban foreign military presence in the South American country. He also ordered all U.S. defense staff to leave the country in 2014.

Ecuador’s foreign minister Jose Valencia defended the government decision and said that Correa’s argument “maliciously distort what was completely legitimate international cooperation against drug trafficking.”

Since current President Lenin Moreno took power after leftist Correa in 2017, the Ecuadorean government became increasingly pro-U.S. and started doing away with progressive policies, while politically persecuting current and former officials who held office during Correa's government, including the former president himself. 

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