The NSA Case's Secret Story: Turmoil in South America

While Quito’s diplomatic negotiations were under way in London and Moscow, other discreet dealings were taking place in Ecuador’s capital. Looking to keep the dialogue flowing, the U.S. embassy in Quito assigned Deputy Chief of Mission Timothy P. Zuniga-Brown to establish a communications bridge with Alexis Mera, Correa’s powerful legal counsel.

According to Univision’s sources, Zuniga-Brown proposed to Mera the coordination of a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Adam Namn to discuss issues of mutual interest. An initial meeting took place on Tuesday, June 25 at Ambassador Namn’s official residence.

The day after, June 26, the American embassy sent the administration a diplomatic note requesting that the Minister of Foreign Affairs “notify the Embassy immediately” if Snowden should arrive in Ecuador by any means of travel.

Additionally, the note asked Correa’s administration to “effectuate the return of Mr. Snowden to the United States by way of denial of entry, deportation, expulsion, or other lawful means under domestic law,” according to a copy of the note obtained by Univision.

The document established, for the first time, the charges against Snowden: “Theft of government property” and “non-authorized communication of classified information and national defense information.”

The next day, Thursday, June 27, Ambassador Cely sent Correa a message from Italy, where she was traveling, to give him other news: she had received a call from the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Latin America, Roberta Jacobson, expressing interest on the part of Vice President Joe Biden in speaking directly with Correa.

Basically there were three issues around which the telephone conversation would revolve: the extradition of Snowden should Ecuador grant him asylum, in accordance with the previous day’s diplomatic note; the renewal of the Andean Trade Preference Act for Ecuador; and a petition presented by Chevron oil company in Washington to suspend the preferences.

Cely’s communication included a fourth element of interest to Quito: “the pending case of the Isaías brothers.” Roberto and William Isaías, two bankers accused of corruption by Correa’s administration, had obtained a favorable ruling by a Miami court in a lawsuit filed by the Ecuadorian government to demand the confiscation of their assets in U.S. territory.

In addition, Ecuador had filed an extradition request for the Isaías brothers, which until now has been unsuccessful.

The issue of the Isaias’ extradition, which, according to Univision’s sources, Quito wanted to use in exchange for Snowden’s potential extradition should he be granted political asylum, faced a formidable obstacle.

Just a week earlier, on June 19, the State Department had notified Ecuador that it was not “able to proceed with the extradition request for Roberto and William Isaías Dassum at this time,” since Ecuador “has not provided evidence that the Isaias brothers deliberately participated in the planning of the embezzlement, or that they embezzled funds from the Central Bank in the specified monetary amount,” according to the text in the message obtained by Univision.

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