USAID to pull out of Ecuador: US embassy official

The US Agency for International Development has decided to end its operations in Ecuador next year after failing to reach an agreement with its leftist government, a US embassy official said Tuesday.

"The great majority of USAID's activities will end in March 2014. The process of reducing personnel has already begun. The office will close next year," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It came a day after Ecuador announced it was freezing cooperation with USAID, saying the agency cannot "carry out any new activity, nor extend timeframes for completion of projects" until a new framework agreement has been signed.

The government maintains that the agreement under which USAID has worked in the country since 1962 needs to be revised to reflect changing conditions.

"We would sign with USAID if that financing was for development, but the money is used to finance NGOs that are enemies of the government," Alexis Mera, an aide to leftist President Rafael Correa.

"We aren't USAID beggars nor are we a colony of the United States," he said on GamaTV.

Correa last year accused the agency of financing opposition groups and threatened to expel it from the country.

His leftist government has limited the work of international NGOs, citing concerns they might destabilize this OPEC member state.

The US embassy has said it had tried for two years to reach a deal that would allow USAID to keep working in Ecuador. USAID has spent some $32 million a year since 2007 on projects in Ecuador.