Ecuador Hires DC Lobbyists Amid Snowden Asylum Fight

Tuesday, 16 Jul 2013 04:35 PM

By Dan Weil

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Ecuador has hired lobbying group Van Scoyoc Associates to represent its interests in Washington, as the nation faces intense criticism from the United States for its willingness to consider an asylum offer to National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden.

Ecuador's embassy agreed to a $300,000, six-month contract earlier this month for the firm to lobby Congress and the Obama administration on its behalf, according to Justice Department records, The Hill reports.

Van Scoyoc "will provide counsel to the Embassy of Ecuador on strengthening the Embassy's ties to the United States government and relevant U.S. institutions," which "will involve contact with officials of the executive branch and members and staff of the U.S. Congress where the Republic of Ecuador has a direct interest or need for advocacy and consulting assistance," the records state.

Van Scoyoc's work will focus on issues, such as "bilateral dialogue, foreign affairs, trade, economic development, migration, and security/defense," the records say.

The U.S. government has expressed its outrage with Ecuador for refusing to rule out an asylum offer to Snowden, who now resides in the Moscow airport while awaiting developments.

Several high-powered congressmen have threatened to sever trade relations with Ecuador if it accepts Snowden, and Vice President Joe Biden has personally urged Ecuador's President Rafael Correa to refrain from doing so, The Hill reports.

Following the congressional threats, Ecuador canceled its trade agreement with the United States and offered $23 million to finance "human rights" education for Americans.

A day after that cancellation, lobbying titan Patton Boggs cut off its work for Ecuador, according to The Hill.  So the nation moved its business to Van Scoyoc.

As for Snowden, he applied for temporary asylum in Russia Tuesday, according to a variety of news sources. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he might allow Snowden to remain in Russia if he agrees to "cease his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners," according to The New York Times.

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