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Ecuador, US resuming cooperation in anti-drug flights

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador says it is resuming an anti-drug air operation with the U.S. a decade after the South American nation booted the U.S. military from an air base.

Vice Minister of Defense Diego Gomez says a U.S. P3 Orion plane equipped with technology that can help it detect illegal fishing boats or vessels carrying drugs began test flights over Ecuador on Thursday.

The plane’s crew will include U.S. and Ecuadorian officers and will be authorized to use three airports in Ecuador.

From 1999 to 2009 the U.S. operated an anti-drug air base in Manta. But then President Rafael Correa canceled the lease, saying the U.S. military presence threatened Ecuador’s national sovereignty.

Relations between the two countries have improved since Lenin Moreno, a centrist, became Ecuador’s president last year.