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Ecuador  time Zone UTC-05:00

 Capital City Quito

Currency United States Dollar

National Day  10 August

His Excellency Mr Sebastian Corral Bustamante
Ambassador of Ecuador
Embassy of Ecuador
Flat 3B, 3 Hans Crescent
London SW1X 0LS
T: 020 7584 1367 / 020 7590 2501 / 020 7590 2507
E: eecugbr@cancilleria.gob.ec

Since his arrival, Ambassador of Ecuador Mr Sebastian Corral Bustamante has been enjoying getting to know the capital by running through its streets and parks. “It’s amazing to see so many different nationalities together in one city. The variety of cultures can be seen through food, restaurants and the arts, which is quite something. Experiencing London’s cultural life has been a unique experience, and fantastic for our family.”

Ambassador Corral Bustamante arrived in London in October last year, with his wife Maria Jose and their oldest son. “Our 28-year-old son has Down’s syndrome and autism, so the decision to move here took careful consideration,” especially as trip required 10 days of quarantine in Madrid. Their two daughters live between London and Miami. But we are very happy we made the move, and our son has adapted to the change very well.”

One thread seems to run throughout his career: that he’s not been afraid of testing the system. “I’m a political appointee, with no diplomatic experience. I know many Ecuadorian career diplomats who do their job very well and have done fantastic work.” But he believes “the pragmatism of coming from the private sector can help move things forward.” His fresh approach means he’s happy to pick up the phone and call anyone in order to get things done. “This surprises people sometimes!” he remarks.

For the past 20 years, the Ambassador has been CEO of one of Ecuador’s major national media outlet, Teleamazonas. “If well managed, media can contribute to many positive things in society. We decided that rather than focusing on making money, we would use the company as a vector for change. Ecuador has a lot of poverty, structural problems and corruption. We formed a serious news outlet that was critical of all forms of political power. This caused a lot of issues, and one administration even went as far as closing us for three days for exposing their abuse of authority.” The role involved “ten difficult years in a country with a President who was totally against freedom of speech and freedom of the press; he created many laws to constrain our activities. From a business point of view, this was the hardest time of my life.” Ever the optimist, he explains this taught him “resilience. But the whole experience increased my awareness of how necessary it is to try to do something for the less fortunate in Ecuador.”

The job exposed him to relationships with many high-profile politicians, including with the current President of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso. “We met 14 years ago, and it’s been a rocky relationship as I don’t always agree with what he says. But President Lasso understood that we were sincere with good intention, and we have built a healthy mutual respect. After he was appointed as President, he called and asked me to be Ambassador, “definitely one of the highlights of my career.”

So what are his major plans and priorities while in the UK? Ambassador Corral Bustamante explains that since the change in administration, “Ecuador has a strategic plan to open its boarders to almost everyone. We are trying to sign free-trade agreements with most of the world’s big economies. We have a new free-trade agreement with the UK, and we are trying to increase the volume of exports from Ecuador into the UK. Last year was a record: we increased exports by 25 per cent from the previous year. I must also get UK companies to invest in Ecuador.”

He continues: “Politically and diplomatically things are going well. The UK has an amazing Ambassador in Ecuador: Chris Campbell. He’s very smart, dynamic and outspoken, and I’m trying to do the same here. I’m trying to get connected with as many people, MPs and companies as possible. With our combined efforts, I think things are improving.”

Furthermore, he says, “Ecuador is mainly known in the UK for our Galapagos islands. One of my challenges is to explain to British society that the Galapagos is in Ecuador, and not Ecuador in the Galapagos. There’s more to Ecuador than just the Galapagos!”

Not that he wants to play the importance of the Galapagos down. While attending COP26, he recalls how “we were the only country that announced a serious, concrete commitment: to increase the marine reserve of the Galapagos by 30,000 square km. Signed by decree, funds will be locked in a trust and the interest from that will protect the whole ecosystem.” Although committed to tackling climate change, Ambassador Corral Bustamante says Ecuador must consider the other side of the story. “We need to find a balance in terms of keeping nature safe, but also being able to extract the richness from our territory in order to develop the country. We need to utilise some of Ecuador’s natural resources: oil, copper and gold. In Ecuador, almost 30 per cent of the children up to three years of age have chronic malnutrition. We have a responsibility to use our natural resources to look after our population. We need to find a balance.”

With regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, he says, “Ecuador has done extremely well in terms of vaccinations. We are one of the top three countries in Latin America, and it’s important to note that 65 per cent of vaccines came from the Chinese government.”

In 2022, he says Ecuador’s greatest diplomatic challenge “is for the country to return to be considered a serious, consistent, pragmatic player in the international arena. Previously, Ecuador was considered an investment risk and was excluded from all serious international financial markets.” He explains Ecuador’s diplomatic relations are gradually improving with the UK and US. “The biggest challenge is to try and maintain this policy in the long term. Ecuador is now a candidate for the United Nations Security Council, we are trying to increase the number of diplomatic offices around the world and reintroduce Ecuador as a country that defends human rights and democracy in the world. We are trying to be perceived as a serious contender to do business with, with fiscal discipline, and a serious plan to attract foreign investment. We want to have a society that is ruled by the law, not ruled by someone’s will. We are trying to convey this to the world.”

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