Saturday, September 19th 2009 - 09:52 UTC

Last US forces abandon Manta military base in Ecuador

The United States formally left the Manta military base in Ecuador on Friday at 9.00 a.m. local time, at a ceremony in which Ecuadorian authorities took full control of the Pacific Coast facilities.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Falconi said it was a “triumph for national sovereignty”

The Ecuador government formally resumed control of Manta, a military base on its Pacific coast, 10 years after was leased, rent-free, to the US military for anti-drug operations.

During the handover ceremony, Ecuador's Foreign Minister Fander Falconi said that the exit of US soldiers was “a triumph for national sovereignty.”

He also said that the lease agreement, signed in 1999, had not been properly legalized because it had only been approved by then Foreign Minister Heinz Muller and the legislature's Foreign Affairs committee, “and not by the full legislative nor all Ecuadorians”.

He also made a call for nations to avoid relations “based on subordination” and foreign military bases.

Ecuador's current president, Rafael Correa had announced the lease would not be renewed in July 2008. “It is important to recognize that the transition process has been completely correct, peaceful and positive. This is very satisfying for us,” he said.

The 1999 agreement was slammed by Ecuadorian social and political organizations, who also claimed US personnel at the base “were involved in the violation of Ecuadorians’ human rights”.

The exit of US forces from Ecuador is believed to have triggered the current controversy over foreign forcers in South American military bases. Colombia this year signed and implemented an agreement with the United States for the deployment of US forces in seven military bases which has been fiercely criticized by Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador among others.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez claims the bases with US forces have the purpose of toppling his government and taking over the country’s vast hydrocarbons resources.

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