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Cablegate: Correa Defuses Deadbeat Dad Story C-Al7-00365

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INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 6590
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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000885

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E.O. 12958: DECL: TEN YEARS
TAGS: PGOV PREL EC
SUBJECT: CORREA DEFUSES DEADBEAT DAD STORY C-AL7-00365


Classified By: PolOff Erik Martini for reasons 1.4 (b&d).

1. (U) Summary: A recent attempt by Lucio Gutierrez to tar
President Rafael Correa for his father's sins appears to have
backfired. The open secret of Correa's sordid family history
became public on April 13, on the eve of the government's
referendum, when PSP deputy Luis Almeida alleged during a
television interview that Rafael Correa senior had been
arrested and incarcerated for drug trafficking in the United
States in the 1970s. In his radio address of April 14,
Correa confirmed the allegation, generating widespread
sympathy with the story of how his family dealt with the
difficult situation during his childhood. Gutierrez'
mudslinging began immediately after results for the
referendum were in and has fed a backlash against him from
the media. End Summary.

2. (U) On April 13, to the evident horror of his television
interviewer, maverick Patriotic Society (PSP) deputy Luis
Almeida claimed President Rafael Correa's father, now
deceased, was a convicted narco-trafficker. On April 14 and
15, PSP leader Lucio Gutierrez repeated the charges, calling
for President Correa, the "son of a delinquent" to stop
labeling him and others in the opposition with the term
"mafia."

3. (U) Correa responded to the charge during his weekly
radio address on April 14, saying "I have nothing to hide. I
had a very difficult childhood." He explained that his
father left his family when he was five years old, worked as
a drug mule, and served three years in a U.S. prison. When
his father was gone, his mother maintained the family by
cooking and sending Rafael to deliver food after school. He
said his father was a victim of the system, and implied that
his father's act of desperation made him one of many who were
excessively punished for a relatively minor drug infraction.
To strong applause, he said "how can you blame me for what my
father did 40 years ago?" He said he grew up thinking that
his father was working in the U.S.; his mother did not tell
him the truth of his father's situation until he was 18.
Later, at a press conference after the voting on April 15,
Correa refused further comment, responding to a questioner
"I'm sorry, senorita, but I don't have time to deal with this
garbage."

4. (U) The smear campaign, timed to influence popular
referendum voting on April 15, immediately generated a media
backlash against Gutierrez. Major TV personality Rodolfo
Baquerizo, who is generally sympathetic to Gutierrez, said "I
don't think it's correct, ethical or decent" to drag family
into politics. One TV interviewer simply ignored Gutierrez's
rant and another criticized him for making an irrelevant
accusation that contributes nothing to national conciliation.
Luis Almeida's interviewer, Jorge Ortiz, responded
dismissively "if it's true, it's his deceased father."

5. (C) Emboffs learned from PSC sources about Correa's
father's history in October, 2006 and confirmed through
LegAtt Santiago that he was arrested in New York City in 1968
for smuggling cocaine into the U.S. and sentenced to five
years in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta that same year.
He was released on June 25, 1971. Media sources also
reportedly learned of the story, but it did not become public
until Almeida made his declarations on April 13th.

Comment

6. (C) Gutierrez' mudslinging has backfired, fueling
sympathy for Correa. After strong criticism from all
quarters, the story had dropped completely from the headlines
by April 17th and had no effect on the overwhelming
referendum vote. Indeed, Correa has turned the story to his
advantage, admitting the allegations, presenting the public
with a sympathetic picture of his character and upbringing,
and leaving Gutierrez and company looking petty.

7. (C) Correa's childhood clearly influences his perceptions
on the drug war: he has repeatedly said the prisons are too
full of minor traffickers serving harsh sentences, and that
more effort should be directed at the kingpins. Correa's
childhood also adds an emotional underpinning to his opinions
on the factors that lead desperate Ecuadorians to migration,
having experienced first hand the difficult results for
families.
JEWELL

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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