Ambassador Nathalie Cely Suárez, Ecuador’s ambassador to Washington since 2012, will soon be returning to Ecuador to join President Correa’s cabinet. Her new portfolio will include tourism, trade, industry, labor, agriculture, and infrastructure. I haven’t seen an announcement about her successor as ambassador.
Ambassador Cely’s time in Washington coincided with some bumps in the road in the bilateral relationship between Washington and Quito. I’ve covered many of the bumps here. In short, Ecuador has been under much pressure, for example in proceedings before the US Trade Representative regarding Ecuador’s trade preferences, on account of the Lago Agrio litigation and Ecuador’s failure or inability to date to comply with interim orders of the arbitrators in an investment treaty arbitration between Chevron and Ecuador. Moreover, her government has not exactly gone out of its way to endear itself to the US administration. Nevertheless, Ambassador Cely, a graduate of the Kennedy School and a professional economist, was an able and sophisticated voice for better relations. She sought to put the focus on areas like ecotourism, bilateral trade, and Ecuador’s growing reputation as a retirement destination for Americans, where the two countries’ interests could align. If I had to point to missteps, I would point to two: first—and this problem really predates her arrival—Ecuador was very slow to start competing with Chevron in the lobbying and public relations war surrounding the Lago Agrio case; and second, once Ecuador started a PR campaign in earnest, while it hired some excellent people, it also ended up with one firm of PR advisors who, as events suggested, were not in my opinion ready for prime time. Overall, though, I think Ecuador will miss the presence of an ambassador who could explain Ecuador’s positions in a way that could be persuasive to American audiences.
If you haven’t read it already, you can find my interview with Ambassador Cely here.