President Leon Febres-Cordero of Ecuador met with President Reagan at the White House yesterday, reaffirming his commitment to most of Reagan's economic and political goals for Latin America and winning Reagan's praise as "an articulate champion of free enterprise."
Febres-Cordero, 54, a hard-charging free-market capitalist educated in the United States, received a ceremonial welcome even warmer than the usual red-carpet treatment accorded state visitors, despite 22-degree temperatures and swirling snow. He is among the strongest of the few Latin leaders who back Reagan's policies in Central America and has led an effort to curb drug traffic in Ecuador.
"You have protected your country's good name and credit-worthiness by avoiding simple solutions and quick fixes," Reagan said. "The United States stands by your side and we will do all we can to help."
That help is expected to include the first grant of additional funding by private banks under the administration's so-called Baker plan to resolve the festering Latin debt situation. The plan, proposed by Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III, involves new private loans to nations implementing free-market policies of the kind Febres-Cordero has pushed since taking office in August 1984.
The Ecuadoran president said later at a news conference that he had not asked for gifts. "We do not expect to get shares or part of the cake," he said. "We think that our economy is in a period of a very strong recovery, and if within those [limits] we can receive help from the Baker initiative, it's welcome."
Febres-Cordero, formerly a millionaire businessman, is controversial in Ecuador for his determination to do things his way. He surrounded Ecuador's Supreme Court with police early in his administration during a dispute over its membership and recently postponed legislative elections for six months in an apparent effort to preserve his one-vote majority.
His crackdown on a growing leftist guerrilla insurgency has sparked recent complaints of human-rights abuses by his security forces, but U.S. officials say the problems are minor. The white-haired executive won Reagan's admiration after breaking diplomatic relations with Nicaragua in November. He has strongly endorsed Reagan's call for elections there that would include the U.S.-backed antigovernment rebels.
Febres-Cordero is expected to formalize a $230 million loan package from the World Bank during his visit. He is scheduled to host an unusual breakfast today involving Baker, Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker and the heads of the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund.