Cablegate: New Galapagos Park Director Literally Fights His
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
241951Z Sep 04
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 QUITO 002599
DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS TO USAID
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID EC ECON EFIS ETRD PGOV PREL SENV
SUBJECT: NEW GALAPAGOS PARK DIRECTOR LITERALLY FIGHTS HIS
WAY INTO OFFICE
REF: QUITO 2502
1. Summary. On September 22, a group of local fishermen,
who have long been at odds with the park leadership over
environmental regulations, stormed the office of the GNP
headquarters in Santa Cruz and helped Fausto Cepeda, the
newly appointed director, install himself as park director.
The violent confrontation has made both U.S. and
2. While the fishermen were assailing the GNP headquarters,
ten GNP strike representatives were in Quito having a series
of meetings with the Minister of the Environment (MOE) to
negotiate a resolution to the crisis. In the end, the MOE
publicly agreed to nothing, except to resume negotiations
with the GNP representatives on Monday, September 27. The
Embassy received a report that ten fishing boats were spotted
in a no-take zone in the Galapagos. The Embassy continues to
monitor the crisis closely and is pressing for quick
resolution. End Summary.
Let's Talk Institutional Stability
2. On September 21, the Ambassador hosted a luncheon for
four leading Ecuadorian environmentalists intimately involved
with the Galapagos Islands. They were: Eliecer Cruz (leads a
USAID-funded Galapagos Marine Reserve Project); Luis Suarez
(Executive Director of Conservation International); Roberto
Troya (Regional Representative of The Nature Conservancy);
and Deborah Chiriboga (entrepreneur who is very involved in
the Guayaquil conservation sector). The group discussed the
current crisis but focused on long-term institutional
stability of the GNP.
3. The group concurred that the best approach would be to
name an interim director for one month, to permit a cooling
off period. During this time, an independent commission
comprised of members from various sectors would evaluate the
current situation and propose a temporary solution to
stabilize the park.
4. The broader goal of this commission would be to form a
permanent body that would choose future park directors.
That body ideally would include a mix of national and
international stakeholders, but would clearly not impinge on
the sovereignty of Ecuador as ultimate steward of the
islands. The NGO representatives said they would propose
these ideas to the MOE and other executive branch members.
Meanwhile Back at the Park...
5. On the same morning as the Ambassador's luncheon, Rogelio
Guaycha, President of four fishing cooperatives and alternate
congressional deputy, incited fishermen to band together,
march to the gates of the GNP headquarters in Santa Cruz, and
throw out the striking GNP employees. His call for action
worked. About 60 fishermen showed up at the gates of the GNP
and tried to forcibly enter the park grounds. The local
police used tear gas and riot shields to turn away the
fishermen. Some strikers were injured, but none severely.
6. The following morning, September 22, Guaycha called for
another assault against the strikers. This time the
fishermen successfully pushed through. They led Fausto
Cepeda to the GNP headquarters, allowing him to assume his
position as park director. At that point, six of the GNP
employees broke ranks and decided to support Cepeda. The
rest of the GNP employees remained on strike pending the
outcome of scheduled meetings with the MOE.
7. The violent confrontation has received international
attention. Numerous articles about it have appeared in U.S.
and foreign newspapers.
GNP Employees and MOE Meet to Discuss the Crisis
8. The strike representatives, the MOE, and members of the
President's staff met on the evening of September 22 and the
following morning to discuss a resolution of the crisis. The
MOE declined to comment publicly on the results of the
9. Privately, the MOE and the presidential advisors agree
that a commission should be established and that the
employees should be given long-term contracts to further
stabilize the GNP as an institution (see Reftel for specifics
on strikers' demands). The sticking point seems to be
replacing Cepeda with an interim director.
10. The MOE is meeting with Cepeda on September 24 in
Guayaquil to discuss the situation. The MOE is disturbed by
the fact that Cepeda partook in the violence and some believe
he may be turning a blind-eye to illegal fishing after only
one day in office. The MOE and the GNP employees agreed to
meet again on Monday, September 27.
The Start of Illegal Fishing?
11. The Embassy received notification from WildAid that
fishing vessels were spotted in no-take zones in the
Galapagos Islands. Cepeda was informed about the situation
but reportedly stated that the vessel used to monitor and
investigate these activities needed fuel. The pilot of the
small airplane that is also used to monitor these activities
was sick. WildAid, an environmental NGO, offered to fuel the
monitoring vessel and charter a plane. Cepeda accepted the
12. WildAid flew over the Canal Bolivar, which is one of the
most protected areas in the Galapagos. They confirmed that
there were at least ten boats in this strict no-take zone.
WildAid will forward photos of this to Conservation
International, who will present this to the appropriate
13. It appears that naming Cepeda as park director was meant
to appease fishing interests in the run-up to local
elections. Donor groups are formally expressing their
concerns to the President over investments and park stability
and have offered to help resolve the conflict.
14. Instability in park administration is one of the most
serious problems affecting conservation in the Galapagos.
Prior to Gutierrez,s administration there was one park
director for eight years. Since Gutierrez came into power in
2003, there have been eight directors. We continue to
promote stability and conservation with all our contacts but
with limited success.