Cablegate: Mission Actions to Counter "No Bases" Conference


DE RUEHQT #0643/01 0791204
O 201204Z MAR 07




REFTEL: QUITO 00420, QUITO 00537, QUITO 554, QUITO 556, QUITO 587

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Mission Actions To Counter "No Bases" Conference

1. (SBU) Summary: The International Network for the Abolition of
Foreign Military Bases (INAFMB) held their international conference
in Ecuador March 5-9. An estimated 400 foreign activists from 40
nations attended meetings and rallies in Quito and Manta (site of
the U.S. Forward Operating Location - FOL). While neither President
Correa nor any other Ecuadorian cabinet-level minister attended
conference events, INAFMB representatives met with Correa in his
office, and the undersecretary for defense reaffirmed the GOE's
intent not to renew the FOL agreement in remarks at the opening
ceremony. The Embassy countered the conference's misinformation
campaign with an aggressive information outreach strategy and
private diplomacy aimed at key GOE and City of Manta officials. In
the end, the INAFMB conference was overshadowed by the ongoing
institutional impasse between Ecuador's electoral body and its
Congress, and our media efforts generated positive press coverage of
the FOL and its mission. End Summary.

Background: "No-Bases" Conference

2. (SBU) An estimated 400 international activists from over 40
nations arrived in Ecuador for the International Network for the
Abolition of Foreign Military Bases' March 5-9 conference. The
INAFMB Ecuador conference sought to highlight the "political,
social, economic, and environmental impact of foreign military bases
and the grassroots movements dedicated to opposing their existence,"
the organization affirmed in event literature. The INAFMB website
( notes that the organization was formed in 2003 to
connect various anti-bases movements around the world. The network
through its global activism hopes to reduce what it views as rising
"militarization" and use of "force" around the world with the aim of
encouraging a "lasting and just system of peace." The organization
appears to be non-violent in nature.

Private Diplomacy

3.(SBU) Prior to the "No-Bases" conference, the Ambassador met with
Minister of Defense Lorena Escobar (reftel), Quito Mayor Paco
Montayno, and Security Advisor to Correa Fernando Bustamante to
exchange views on the upcoming conference and to discuss the
importance of the FOL in the regional anti-narcotics fight. The PAO
and PolOffs also met with conference attendees from the American
Friends Service Committee and the Washington Office on Latin America
to discuss the role of the FOL in Ecuador. The activists asked
Embassy officials to respond to a series of allegations by
conference participants including that the FOL is part of Plan
Colombia, used to launch aerial fumigations planes in Colombia, and
had had a negative social and environmental impact on the City of
Manta. Embassy officers explained the limited scope of the FOL
based on the 1999 agreement between the U.S. and Ecaudor, and noted
that the FOL is an important tool in combating regional narcotics
trafficking. Officers repeatedly noted that the FOL is not a U.S.
military base, but rather a small operation located on the
Ecuadorian Eloy Alfaro Airbase, and explained that, to the contrary
of having a negative social or environmental impact, it has been
actively engaged in community improvement projects and confers a
significant, positive economic impact in Manta. While the group
remained skeptical, they thanked Embassy officials for taking the
time to meet and provide the USG perspective. The WOLA
representative mentioned she is writing an article on the FOL to be
published soon.

4. (SBU) In a March 7 meeting with CG and PolChief, Manta mayor
Jorge Zambrano expressed more support than he has previously for the
presence of the FOL, and suggested the USG continue efforts to
educate the Ecuadorian public to the benefits of the FOL. CG
expressed appreciation for Zambrano's recent public statements
extolling the benefits of the FOL to Manta and the nation, and
inquired about the mayor's views on a possible local referendum on
the FOL. Zambrano said the local political consensus was in favor
of a referendum, but he agreed with Embassy concerns that if
proposed to national electoral authorities, the Correa government
might try to convert the measure into a national referendum, leading
to likely failure of the measure. Zambrano also expressed concern
that if held locally, the costs of the referendum would come out of
his budget. (Those costs are estimated at $80,000.) While some
advocate holding the referendum concurrently with the April 15
referendum on the national constituent assembly, Zambrano said it
would be preferable to hold the local referendum on the FOL
separately. In any case, he said, the earliest practical time to
hold a local referendum would be on the date for elections to the
assembly, if approved, in August/September. Zambrano suggested
that local support for the FOL was strong, but much ignorance still
exists about it, even among Manta residents. Turning to the issue
of upgrading the Manta airport to international status, the CG
explained to Zambrano that we believe the FOL could easily coexist
with and in fact support an international airport, made possible by
USG investment in creating the best runway in South America.
Zambrano agreed, and suggested that the USG consider contributing
radar to the airport which would benefit both military and civilian

GOE Reaffirms Non-Renewal, But Stays Clear of Conference

5. (SBU) Members of the "No-Bases Coalition of Ecuador" and the
INAFMB met with Correa and Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa
in Correa's office on March 8. According to the INAFMB and press
reports, Correa reaffirmed his position not to renew the FOL
agreement after its 2009 expiry date. Although Correa and Escudero
were invited to participate in the INAFMB conference inauguration,
both declined. Escudero instead sent Undersecretary of Defense
Miguel Carvajal, who also reaffirmed the GOE position not to renew
the agreement after 2009, calling it a matter of national security
(reftel). Quito Mayor Paco Moncayo welcomed the group not to
associate himself with its cause but because he viewed the large
international delegation as an opportunity to promote Quito
touristically. Moncayo, a retired Ecuadorian general, stressed the
importance of a "civilian" debate over national security matters,
and lamented the lack of civilian security experts in Ecuador.
National Security Advisor to Correa, Fernando Bustamante,
represented Correa at conference events held in Manta on March 9.


6. (U) Meeting organizers engaged in aggressive media outreach that
included interviews with two national television and four national
radio chains. Media dedicated almost daily coverage to the event,
but not as prominently as we had feared. The concept of "735 U.S.
bases around the world" was a recurring theme of their press
materials. Their message also centered on misinformation including
the idea that U.S. bases allowed the USG to control water and oil
resources worldwide, contributed to pollution and environmental
degradation and were the cause of alarming increases in prostitution
in communities where they are located.


7. (U) The Embassy used State/IIP products, Southcom fact sheets
regarding global security priorities, and locally produced materials
to dispel the misinformation circulated by the conference
organizers. Post personally discussed the materials with
journalists as a way to provide balance to reporting on the No Bases
conference. The majority of national newspapers who covered the
event included Embassy-originated information as part of their
reporting. Our explanation that there are 34 U.S. overseas bases in
countries such as Korea, Japan and Spain, not 735 bases, and that
U.S. security alliances with these and many other countries
(including Ecuador) help ensure global security and stability,
helped temper the organizers' notion that the USG was imposing its
security agenda on other countries via its overseas bases. DCM,
Consul General, PAO, DAO and IO conducted on-the-record interviews
with national and regional news outlets prior to and during the
conference to underscore USG points. Five national radio stations,
three national newspapers and regional television stations broadcast
these interviews from March 5-8.

8. (U) PAS organized FOL tours for TV stations whose broadcasts
coincided with the conference. A four-part series entitled,
"Positive Action in the Manta FOL" was broadcast by the country's
largest television network, TC Television. The series focused on
the threat of narcotrafficking in the region and the positive
economic and social impact of FOL personnel in the Manta community.
Following the conference, PAS welcomed some of the country's most
widely recognized news anchors from Ecuavisa, the country's
second-largest network, to the FOL for a full day of interviews and
briefings to underscore its counter narcotics mission and dispel the
misinformation that the USG conducted subversive or armed operations
from Manta.

Embassy to Continue Information Campaign

9. (SBU) Over the next year, the Mission will continue its campaign
to inform Ecuadorian opinion shapers and the general public about
the FOL and the benefits of U.S.-Ecuador counter-narcotics
cooperation via private and public diplomacy, and FOL visits. We
also are requesting separate funding from the Department and DOD for
paid media placements to inform the public about the FOL, and for an
enhanced Manta community relations campaign to increase support for
the FOL in key constituencies in and around Manta.


10. (SBU) The "No-Bases" conference presented the Mission with
excellent opportunities to educate the GOE and the Ecuadorian and
international media about the exclusive counter-narcotics mission
and positive results of the FOL. The Ambassador's meetings with the
new Defense Minister and the president's security advisor provided
them with the USG perspective on how the FOL benefits Ecuador and
protects its sovereignty. By shining a light on the FOL, the
conference may even have inadvertently helped us capture the
attention of undecided and uninformed observers and to absorb a
balanced review of the facts. The Mission's extensive media
outreach efforts, including media visits to the FOL and radio and TV
interviews, exposed millions of Ecuadorians to the USG perspective
on the FOL and bilateral counter-narcotics cooperation and countered
the organizers' anti-FOL propaganda.


© Scoop Media

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