Dear Mr. President
Last week, you were kind enough to invite me and my FOX News colleagues to breakfast, where we discussed your opinion of U.S. foreign policy, and your view of the anti-drug operations being carried out by U.S. personnel at Ecuador's Manta Airbase. You described the U.S. surveillance work carried out there as "useless."
Well, Mr. President, with all due respect, having now visited Manta and seen the U.S. operation (something you've never done, Sir) I beg to differ.
It's hard to argue with facts. And the fact is that U.S. planes based at Manta flew 850 surveillance missions over the Pacific last year, and those missions were critical to the seize of more than $5 billion of illegal narcotics, most of it destined for the streets of American cities.
You argue that it's a question of sovereignty: You don't want U.S. forces on Ecuadorian territory. But where's the sovereignty in allowing the northern areas of your country to be overrun by the Colombian cartels, who are bringing more and more cocaine across the border into Ecuador and shipping it out from there? Where's the sovereignty in allowing the cartels to set up cocaine labs in your country, with all the attendant environmental damage? And, Mr. President, where's the sovereignty in allowing more and more Ecuadorians, children and adults, to fall prey to the cartels, to be seduced into a cocaine habit that can only destroy their lives, and the lives of Ecuadorian families?
And, by the way, the U.S. personnel at Manta love your country and the Ecuadorian people. Lt. Colonel Javier Delucca of the U.S. Air Force runs the Manta operation. I have rarely met a man so dedicated — not just in the global fight against drugs, his day job — but to the other part of his work, which is making a difference to the lives of Ecuadorians who live near the base.
Everyone working at the U.S. operation in Manta takes part in raising money for local schools and health clinics. They organize soccer and baseball leagues for the local kids, they work with disabled children in Manta, and while I was there, they reached into their own pockets and raised $450 for a local children's choir that came to perform for them during lunch.
Mr. President, what I saw at Manta, was a group of people who, while proud to be American, are also proud to be a part of the Ecuadorian community, in which they live and work.
Perhaps, Sir, before you fulfill your threat to kick those U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard personnel out of your country, you should go and see for yourself exactly what they do.
And if you need any further incentive, I can tell you from experience that Col. Delucca throws a mean St. Patrick's Day party.
Jonathan Hunt has served as a New York-based correspondent for since 2004. He led the coverage of the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal, covered the war in Iraq from Kuwait and Baghdad, and was the first FNC reporter to travel into Fallujah. You can read his bio here.
Jonathan Hunt currently serves as a New York-based chief correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). Hunt joined the network in 2002 as an international correspondent based in Los Angeles.