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Cablegate: Ecuador: Constituent Assembly Focus Unclear

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DE RUEHQT #0090/01 0302027
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 302027Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY QUITO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8345
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 7296
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 3839
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 2852
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JAN LIMA 2333
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 3241

C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000090
SIPDIS
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/30/2018
TAGS: PGOV EFIN SNAR KCOR EC
SUBJECT: ECUADOR: CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY FOCUS UNCLEAR
REF: A. QUITO 55
B. 07 QUITO 2580

Classified By: Ambassador Linda Jewell for reason 1.4 (B, D)

1. (SBU) Summary: As the Constituent Assembly reaches the
two-month mark, members are meeting with various interest
groups and holding private committee meetings, but have yet
to debate publicly any constitutional language. The Assembly
has approved six laws or other documents, including the
controversial tax reform. President Correa´s speech to the
Assembly marking his first year in office and the
government´s denunciation of bribery attempts have been
highlights. End Summary

60 DAYS AND COUNTING
--------------------

2. (SBU) Since its inauguration on November 29 in
Montecristi, the Constituent Assembly has sometimes appeared
more interested in legislating than in drafting a new
constitution. So far it has approved the tax reform law (Ref
A), three "constituent mandates," and two resolutions.
Democratic Left Assembly member and former Finance Minister
Diego Borja explained to poloff the differences between these
legal instruments: Laws are equivalent to those that the
suspended Congress would approve, constituent mandates are
approved under an expedited process and last only as long as
the Assembly is in session, and resolutions are the
Assembly´s internal rules.

3. (U) The Assembly´s legislative and oversight committee is
currently analyzing two additional bills submitted by the
executive branch. One would regulate land transport,
transit, and road safety. The other deals with restructuring
management of public finances, including bringing the
petroleum funds into the central budget.

4. (C) Proud and Sovereign Fatherland (PAIS) political bureau
member Augusto Barrera, who is serving as a liaison between
the Executive and Assembly on substantive matters,
acknowledged to the Ambassador on January 24 that each law
the Assembly passes has a political cost. While claiming
that 80% of past constituent assemblies in Ecuador have also
legislated, he said the government would seek consideration
of only a minimum number of laws, namely those necessary for
effective governing.

5. (SBU) The constituent mandates have addressed diverse
topics. One approved mandate regulates salaries in the
public sector so they do not exceed that of the President.
It sets a monthly ceiling of $5,000, with the exception of
personnel representing Ecuador abroad and "specific strategic
jobs." Another mandate suspended the elections of members of
congress representing two new provinces, Santo Domingo de los
Tsachilas and Santa Elena, until after the official results
of the referendum on the new constitution. Ref B described
the first constituent (or constitutional) mandate, which
affirmed the Assembly´s full powers.

INTEREST GROUPS SWARM TO MONTECRISTI
------------------------------------

6. (C) The work of the Assembly´s nine
constitutional-drafting committees has centered thus far
around consultations with interest groups, plus executive and
judicial officials, and private committee discussions. The
committees and Assembly leadership have been besieged by
requests for meetings on every imaginable constitutional and
legislative topic. Several committees are also holding
meetings outside of Montecristi to solicit citizen input in
specific constitutional areas under their jurisdiction.
Barrera mentioned that PAIS was struggling with how to
balance being responsive to citizen groups with the need to
focus on substance ) he cited a recent meeting between a
group that believes in UFOs and the Sovereignty committee as
an example of how things were out of control to the point of
near absurdity.

7. (SBU) There are indications that the committees are hard
at work debating constitutional issues behind closed doors.
For example, after a draft text leaked to the press, PAIS
assembly member Betty Amores, the vice president of the
Committee on Reform of State Structure and Institutions,
explained during a January 22 television interview that the
committee is contemplating a number of changes, including the
elimination of the vice presidency and extension of the
presidential term from four to six years. Amores stated that
the committee had not yet reached a consensus on whether
immediate reelection of the president would be allowed under
the new constitution.

8. (SBU) An encouraging sign of seriousness as well as
open-mindedness on at least some issues, the international
donor community has been approached for technical assistance
in several areas, in most cases by request from ministries
working with given committees on specific policies. USAID,
for example, has been asked to provide technical assistance
on several issues under review by the Environment committee.

CORREA SPEAKS TO ASSEMBLY
-------------------------

9. (SBU) On January 15, President Correa delivered a speech
to the Constituent Assembly describing his government´s
accomplishments during his first year in office and detailing
ambitious plans for the coming year. Perhaps harking back to
his days as a professor, Correa spoke for more than two
hours, accompanied by a 133-page PowerPoint presentation. A
system for governing through seven regions was among the new
proposals. Correa also urged amnesty for several groups
involved in protests and release from prison of individuals
charged with carrying small amounts of drugs as "mules."
Some opposition Assembly members walked out at the start,
arguing that the Constitution required that the President´s
annual speech be delivered to the Congress, not the Assembly.

A WEEK OF CONTROVERSY
---------------------

10. (SBU) Minister of Government Fernando Bustamante and
Anticorruption National Secretary Jose Luis Cortazar
announced January 22 that a bribery attempt in the Assembly
had been discovered. Authorities detained Bolivar Lopez and
Cao Lay Munoz after PAIS assembly member and former
Anticorruption Secretariat employee Gabriel Rivas claimed
that they had offered him USD 3 million to obtain 25 assembly
votes against the new constitution and for re-opening
Congress.

11. (SBU) A video recording that is being used as evidence by
the authorities mentions Patriotic Society Party (PSP)
Assembly member Julio Logrono, which triggered angry
responses from the PSP. During a press conference, Minister
Bustamante cast blame on former PSP President Lucio
Gutierrez, who categorically denied any involvement in the
matter.

COMMENT
-------

12. (C) Suspicions that PAIS already has a written
constitution in its pocket continue to worry commentators,
although PAIS leadership strongly denies it. The
government´s investigation of acts of corruption implicated
the second largest bloc in the Assembly, which in turn gave
the latter ammunition to claim political persecution. With
the perceived lack of results thus far and with corruption
rearing its evil head, the Assembly needs to demonstrate a
greater focus on constitution drafting if it is going to
retain a wide measure of public support.
JEWELL

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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