Despite strained relations, U.S. help to Ecuador flowing steadily, ambassador says

U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Todd Chapman says areas hardest hit by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 16 are getting a large amount of help, but are so devastated that they need much more.

In an interview with Fox News Latino, Chapman, who assumed his ambassador post just this year, said that he has toured the areas left in shambles by the earthquake, the worst one to hit the Andean country since 1979, and saw great need for basic resources.

“While the humanitarian effort has been tremendous coming from the U.S. government and the Ecuadoran government, many governments and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) are working hard, there’s still really a lot of need in the areas of food, water and shelter.

The earthquake left nearly 700 people dead and thousands injured and homeless. Some people remain missing.

Asked about a growing push in the United States for Ecuadorans here to be able to apply for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, which gives temporary reprieve from deportation to those who do not have permanent residency or U.S. citizenship, Chapman said that Ecuador has not requested such designation.

Chapman said the United States is providing a broad range of assistance to Ecuador.

He said that the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), which leads U.S. responses to disasters overseas, has sent experts to work with Ecuadorans to address water problems, sanitation, housing and food. The U.S., Chapman added, has sent a relief flight with more than 80 tons of material assistance that has gone to the Ecuadoran Red Cross.

“We responded to the government there in Ecuador,” Chapman said, “to provide them with assistance to help them improve the operations of the airport in Manta, which will likely receive much of the humanitarian assistance.”

U.S.-Ecuadoran relations have been topsy-turvy over the years, particularly under President Rafael Correa.

The United States is Ecuador’s lead trading partner, the diplomatic relations notwithstanding.

Its economy has been troubled, and it has turned to China for financial assistance.

Chapman dismissed the notion that U.S.-Ecuador relations are strained.

“The U.S. and Ecuador have had a very strong relationship for many years, both with the people and even government to government on select issues,” Chapman said, adding that the estimated 1 million Ecuadorans living in the United States provide help, most through remittances.

“I’ve met with the vice president of Ecuador, the foreign minister — the channels of communication are open,” Chapman said. “We’re committed to working together … during this time of need.”