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Cablegate: Correa Strikes Back at Opposition with Allegations

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHQT #1573 1922056
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 112056Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY QUITO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7383
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 6762
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 2609
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUL 0653
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 1778
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 2547
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS QUITO 001573

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EC
SUBJECT: CORREA STRIKES BACK AT OPPOSITION WITH ALLEGATIONS
OF CONGRESSIONAL VOTE-SELLING

REF: A. QUITO 1488

B. QUITO 1423
C. QUITO 1422
D. QUITO 554

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On July 7, President Correa accused 18
congressmen of offering to support the government,s
controversial banking reform law in exchange for political
favors such as appointments to high posts in state-owned
companies. The president also implicated Guayas prefect
Nicolas Lapentti and former president Lucio Gutierrez in
payoffs that tanked the Province 23 bill (Reftel C).
Correa,s accusations against the congressmen come as his
popularity declines and congressional support for his pet
projects is becoming harder to secure (Reftel A). By
attacking his opponents on ethical issues, he is hoping to
deflect attention from the corruption clouds that are
tarnishing his own administration's image. As the elections
for the Constituent Assembly draw near, all sides appear
ready to do whatever it takes to win control. END SUMMARY.

UNDERCOVER POLICE STING EXPOSES SUPPOSED VOTE SELLING
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (SBU) According to Correa, Congressman Cesar Alonzo Mora
(National Dignity Bloc) requested a private meeting with him
to discuss Congressional support for pending Correa-backed
legislation. In his place, the president sent an undercover
police captain, Ronny Vallejo, posing as a presidential
advisor. In his DATE meeting with Vallejo, Mora reportedly
offered 18 congressional votes in favor of the president,s
banking reform law in exchange for key appointments in
state-owned companies like Petroecuador and Andinatel. The
meeting was recorded, and the tape was submitted as part of a
formal complaint to the Fiscalia General (Attorney General
equivalent) filed on July 9.

LAPENTTI AND GUTIERREZ ALSO CAUGHT WITH THEIR PANTS DOWN
--------------------------------------------- -----------

3. (SBU) The taped conversations also reportedly
incriminate Guayas prefect Nicolas Lapentti (PSC), who
allegedly paid selected Congressmen $100,000 dollars to vote
against a bill that would have created a new province in
Santa Elena carved out of Guayas (Reftel C), and former
president Lucio Gutierrez (PSP) who allegedly received
$500,000 dollars as part of the same deal.

CHARGES COME AS CORREA,S SUPPORT IN CONGRESS WANING
--------------------------------------------- ------

4. (SBU) The accusations come as Correa,s popularity,
while still fairly high, continues to slip and his leverage
fades over a Congress filled with opposition parties and a
motley assortment of opportunistic replacement deputies.
Sensing gaps in the president,s armor, previously loyal
congressmen like those in the National Dignity Bloc are
becoming less reliable. As a result, Correa has failed to
garner enough votes to push through two recent measures
relating to the banking sector: removing Alfredo Vergara,
Superintendent of Banks, from office and approving his
changes to the controversial banking reform law.

COMMENT
-------

5. (SBU) The timing of the charges seems calculated, but
given the crassly opportunistic nature of Ecuadorian
politics, it would not be surprising if the allegations are
true. More importantly, it appears that the Patinovideo
scandal, the squabbles with the press and stalled efforts on
key initiatives have the president worried about an
opposition resurgence. As a result, he is resorting to the
same take-no-prisoners tactics that helped him decimate the
opposition following last year,s elections. This presages a
very bitter battle over Constituent Assembly seats as the
race heats up in the next few months.

JEWELL

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