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U.S. expels Ecuadorian ambassador

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Ecuadorian envoy's expulsion comes after U.S. diplomat is asked to leave to Ecuador
  • The Ecuadorian government says it's upset over allegations in a leaked cable
  • A WikiLeaks cable says U.S. diplomat alleged Ecuador leader aware of police corruption
  • A U.S. State Department spokesman calls American's expulsion "unjustified"

Washington (CNN) -- In a diplomatic tit for tat, the U.S. State Department said Thursday it has ordered the Ecuadorian ambassador expelled from the United States.

Luis Gallegos was declared persona non grata by the U.S. government following the expulsion of Heather Hodges, the U.S. ambassador to Ecuador. Hodges was expelled earlier this week over the contents of a leaked State Department cable made public by WikiLeaks.

"We hope that in a few weeks, we will be able to reopen dialogue with the United States and move past this moment," said Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino in a statement.

The Ecuadorian government declared Hodges persona non grata and asked her to leave as soon as possible, the state-run Andes news agency reported.

Patino declined to call it an expulsion, though Hodges was effectively being kicked out of the country.

"Obviously, we believe that she was unjustifiably declared persona non grata," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Wednesday.

President Rafael Correa said Thursday that his government was moving to limit diplomatic problems created by the expulsions, Andes reported.

Patino said he met with Hodges over revelations in the leaked cable, which said Correa allegedly was aware of acts of corruption by the police high command.

Because the ambassador did not have a satisfactory response, the decision was made that she was not welcome in Ecuador, Patino said, according to Andes.

This act "is not against the government of the United States but against a diplomat who made serious statements," Patino said.

Patino said that during his meeting, he stressed to Hodges how upset the president was over the allegations and she declined to respond, saying only that it was information stolen from the U.S. government, Andes reported.

The cable in question has not yet been posted on the WikiLeaks website but was made available to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, which published it online and first broke the news of the allegations.

According to the document available on the website of El Pais, the cable was seeking to revoke the travel visa of Jaime Hurtado, Correa's commanding general of the Ecuadorian National Police, or ENP, from 2008 to 2009.

The cable alleges that before Hurtado's ascension to the high post, the embassy had "multiple reports that indicate he used his positions to extort bribes, facilitate human trafficking, misappropriate public funds, obstruct investigations and prosecutions of corrupt colleagues, and engage in other corrupt acts for personal enrichment."

Describing the allegations against him, the cable makes a parenthetical note: "Hurtado's corrupt activities were so widely known within the upper ranks of the ENP that some Embassy officials believe that President Correa must have been aware of them when he made the appointment. These observers believe that Correa may have wanted to have an ENP Chief whom he could easily manipulate."

The Ecuadorian government has called the allegation that Correa knowingly promoted a corrupt officer to head the police "unacceptable, malicious and reckless."