Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2014. 11:02 pm CST.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014. AARON HUMES Reporting: Belize is always on the lookout for ways to improve its relations with countries from around the world.
Today, Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington hosted his counterpart from Ecuador, His Excellency Ricardo Patino.
Elrington says the two countries are signing two agreements: one of basic technical cooperation between the two governments and a separate agreement between the respective foreign ministries for bilateral consultations.
Minister Patino extended the hand of friendship from the small South American country led by President Rafael Correa, anticipating ways the countries can work together.
Patino pointed to investments in education, energy and infrastructure – made while keeping external debt to 23% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The country closed 15 of its 80 universities in an effort to improve service and introduced an ambitious “education city” with specific universities dedicated to the arts, teacher training and scientific development among others.
In related news, two prominent persons associated with Ecuador in local and international news are Julian Assange, famous as the editor-in-chief of the website Wikileaks and wanted by Sweden and the United States for separate and unrelated offences having to do with publishing leaked U.S. diplomatic and military documents and alleged sexual offences, and Christian Ebanks, aka Floyd Ebanks Jurado, the local man accused of murder in Ecuador and presently remanded on a gun charge.
While Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said he was not aware of Ebanks’ case specifically, his Belizean counterpart Wilfred Elrington says they will move to other issues once the foundation is in place for diplomatic ties between the two countries, including an extradition treaty.
Ecuadorian authorities have expressed interest in Ebanks but cannot get him while the two countries do not have an extradition treaty with each other.
Assange, originally from Australia, meanwhile, has been granted political asylum at the U.K. Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012.
Foreign Minister Patino, who convinced President Correa to make the offer over the outrage of international authorities, says Assange convinced them that he deserved asylum because as a journalist he exposed such important secrets that the U.S. threatened retaliation on him.
Patino cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the basis for Assange’s right to be granted asylum by another country if he feels persecuted.
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