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Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with Defense Minister Sandoval

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8630
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 7443
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id: 145983
date: 3/14/2008 19:24
refid: 08QUITO263
origin: Embassy Quito
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
header:
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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHQT #0263 0741924
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 141924Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY QUITO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8630
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 7443
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 3869
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 2950
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ MAR LIMA 2486
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA 0502
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 3083
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 3406
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL


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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000263

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2018
TAGS: PREL PTER MARR MOPS EC CO
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S MEETING WITH DEFENSE MINISTER SANDOVAL


Classified By: Ambassador Linda Jewell for Reasons 1.4 (b&d)

1. (C) Summary: During a positive March 13 meeting with
Defense Minister Sandoval, the Ambassador emphasized that we
value our relationships with both Colombia and Ecuador and
want to continue supporting GOE efforts on the Northern
Border. Sandoval recognized how inadequate his resources
were to the task of controlling the border and welcomed
continued USG cooperation. He felt the Colombian military
had betrayed him, and called Chavez' actions unhelpful. The
Ambassador sought to put to rest allegations of Manta FOL
involvement and pressed for rapid conclusion of an exchange
of diplomatic notes providing protections to temporary U.S.
military personnel. (End Summary)

2. (C) The Ambassador met March 13 with Defense Minister
Wellington Sandoval; Under Secretary of Defense General Pena
also participated. Sandoval appeared grateful that the
Ambassador requested the meeting. The Ambassador underscored
that the United States valued its relationships with both
Colombia and Ecuador and that our support for Colombia did
not mean we were against Ecuador. Sandoval made clear that
he felt personally betrayed by Colombia,s failure to give
any notice of the impending incursion, citing good
operational contacts with the Colombian military, who had
often shared information that the Ecuadorian military acted
on. Sandoval volunteered that he knew Venezuelan President
Chavez' support had been unhelpful to Ecuador's cause.

3. (C) The Ambassador highlighted U.S. interest in
continuing to work with Ecuador in the Northern Border area.
Sandoval acknowledged how strapped the Ecuadorian military
was and that it could not control the border with what it
had. He cited the fact that, although the press reported
major Ecuadorian troop movements, in fact the military had
only one functioning helicopter that made ten trips to the
border with 18 passengers each time. Sandoval hoped the
Ecuadorian military would now receive more government
resources. He noted that even if the radar had been on, it
would not have detected the Colombian aircraft since they
were flying very low. Sandoval stated that it would take an
enormous amount of resources to control the border
effectively. The Ambassador pointed out that a scape-goating
witchhunt against Ecuadorian military leaders would not be
productive; Sandoval agreed. (Comment: We fear that pro-U.S.
officers might be the victims of such an action.)

4. (C) The Ambassador raised the pending diplomatic note,
which would provide protections for short-term visits by U.S.
military personnel and allow suspended training and exercises
to resume. These programs can help strengthen the capacity of
Ecuador,s military to meet its Northern Border challenges.
She explained that Fuerzas Comando (a large multilateral
special forces exercise which Ecuador will host in June)
would have to be called off soon if the exchange of
diplomatic notes were not finalized. That would mean the
loss of an excellent opportunity to begin to rebuild regional
trust and goodwill. Sandoval promised to speak to the
Foreign Minister on the subject the next day.

5. (C) The Ambassador offered assurances that the U.S.
Forward Operating Location (FOL) in Manta had no role in the
Colombian military operation, stressing that its assistance
would not have been needed since Colombia had the capability
to achieve this operation with its own Embraer Super Tucanos.
Sandoval said he was now aware of that fact, although there
had been some earlier confusion.
Jewell

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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