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Cablegate: Galapagos National Park Workers Continue to Strike

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 QUITO 002550

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS TO USAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID EC ECON EFIS ETRD PGOV PREL SENV
SUBJECT: GALAPAGOS NATIONAL PARK WORKERS CONTINUE TO STRIKE

REF: QUITO 002502

1. (U) Summary. On September 10, the Minister of the
Environment (MOE) replaced the Galapagos National Park (GNP)
Director. In protest, the employees of the GNP went on
strike. The strike began peacefully and the strikers
initially promised not to interrupt tourist operations if
their demands were met. The MOE offered to address the wage
concerns of the employees (putting up $700,000 as a show of
good faith) but has shown no willingness to budge on the
strikers' demand for reinstatement of the previous GNP
Director. The MOE offered to meet with strike leaders in
Quito, but the strikers have rejected this offer, demanding
that the MOE should come to the Galapagos. Strikers have now
closed tourist visitor's centers on the islands. An
international monitoring group is also calling for an
international boycott on tourism to the Galapagos. President
Gutierrez told the Ambassador on September 20 that he plans
to appoint a new Undersecretary of the Environment for the
Galapagos. End Summary.

The State of the Strike
-----------------------

2. (U) When the existing GNP Director was replaced on
September 10, the roughly 300 employees of the GNP went on
strike (Reftel), denouncing the instability created by the
constant turnover of directors, demanding reinstatement of
the previous director, and including some minor personnel
issues in their list of demands. Some 225 of the 300 workers
are currently employed without a contract and many have not
been paid for over a month.

3. (U) The strike began peacefully, but the strikers have
threatened to use more radical methods if their demands were
not met. On September 15, they issued a bulletin stating
that they would close all the tourist visitor's centers
effective immediately, including the beloved
tortoise-breeding park center. The strikers' bulletin also
states that if the MOE continues to ignore their demands,
they will cease collecting park entrance fees ($100 for
non-residents and $6 for residents) and suspend control and
monitoring of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

4. (U) The MOE announced on September 19 that $700,000 is
available to satisfy some of the wage concerns of the GNP
employees. It is unclear if this amount will be sufficient
to pay for all the contract employees. However, the MOE
adamantly refuses to go to the Galapagos to meet with
strikers to discuss the strikers' demands about stability and
reinstatement. The MOE made it clear at a United Nations
Development Programme meeting on September 17 that "legal and
institutional sovereignty" are primary concerns with respect
to the Galapagos. The MOE also stated on September 19 that
he will impose legal sanctions and other measures against the
strikers. There was no indication what these sanctions would
be or when he would impose them.

Call for Boycott on Tourism
---------------------------

5. (U) The Sea Shepherd Society, an international monitoring
group, has called for an international boycott on tourism to
the Galapagos. The goal is to pressure President Gutierrez
and the MOE to resolve this issue and stabilize GNP
leadership.

New GNP Director on the Job, Without Staff
------------------------------------------

6. (U) The new GNP Director is attempting to install himself
in his office. Reportedly, he went to the GNP Director's
main office in Santa Cruz but was turned away by the
strikers. He then went to the GNP offices in San Cristobal,
accompanied by the Governor, police and navy troops, and
installed himself in that office. The office in San
Cristobal is considerably smaller than the main office in
Santa Cruz (about 30 employees). Despite being physically
present in the office, he apparently has no supervisory
control and is unable to execute his duties and
responsibilities.

Ambassador Meets with Gutierrez
-------------------------------

7. (U) The Ambassador met with President Gutierrez on
September 20 to discuss the Galapagos problem. Gutierrez
said he was cancelling his attendance at the UNGA to resolve
outstanding crises, including the Galapagos. Gutierrez said
he might create a undersecretary position in the Ministry of
the Environment to oversee the archipelago.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) The MOE's $700,000 wage offer will help, but the
problem of park management stability and politicization of
the park directorship will be harder to resolve. A member of
the Guayaquil conservation sector said that strike leaders
are trying to send a letter to U.N. Secretary Kofi Anan
through back channels in order to embarass Ecuador's
representative at the 59th UNGA this week. We know Gutierrez
will not attend the UNGA. It is difficult to see how the
appointment of a new undersecretary would stabilize or
depoliticize the park directorship.

KENNEY

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