Cablegate: Minister of the Environment Announces Initiative

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




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary. The Minister of the Environment (MOE), Fabian
Valdivieso, announced to the press on September 27 that
Fausto Cepeda had been replaced as Galapagos National Park
(GNP) Director by GNP employee Victor Carrion. The MOE will
form a commission to oversee any future selections of the GNP
Director, and will sign work contracts with all GNP employees
to stabilize the park as an institution. The MOE's decision
pleased GNP employees, NGOs and donors. The leader of the
fishermen, however, publicly derided the MOE's decision on
September 28 but did not call for any retaliatory action.
The Embassy is actively promoting an independent commission
that is transparent and politically neutral. End Summary.

The MOE Cans Cepeda, Installs Interim Director
--------------------------------------------- -

2. The GNP strikers waited over the weekend to resume talks
with Minister of the Environment on September 27. Throughout
the weekend, rumors swirled that Cepeda would be ousted for
his role in the violence at the park (Reftel) and an interim
director named. On Monday, the MOE confirmed the rumors that
Cepeda was out and Victor Carrion (a current mid-level
functionary at the GNP) was in for at least two months,
during which time a commission would be established to pick
all future park directors. The MOE also agreed to provide
work contracts to all the GNP employees to bolster
institutional stability.

3. The announcement was well received by the striking
employees, NGOs, and donors, all of which pushed for these
measures to ensure institutional stability in the GNP.
However, the decision angered the fishing sector, to which
Cepeda was a favorite son. Rogelio Guaycha, President of
four fishing cooperatives and alternate congressional deputy,
wasted no time scorning the decision. The following morning
he was on local radio deriding international groups for
meddling in Ecuador's affairs and calling this decision an
encroachment on Ecuador's sovereignty. He has not yet called
on the fishermen to march on the GNP and commandeer the park,
as some suspected he would.

4. The striking employees did not gloat over their victory
and agreed not to go to work the following day, September 28,
to avoid provoking the fishermen. Twenty armed policemen
were stationed at the gates of the GNP to maintain control of
the park.

The MOE Convokes Donor Meeting

5. The MOE invited donors to a meeting at the Ministry of
the Environment on September 28. He laid out his vision of
the process to form the commission. The MOE noted
specifically that the process should be led by the Ministry
of the Environment, and requested donors maintain a low
profile. To that end, the MOE agreed to collaborate on a
communication strategy to inform the public and maintain the
necessary transparency to prevent political interference.

6. The MOE hoped to have a permanent GNP Director in place
by January 1, 2005. He asked for assistance from the donor
groups to achieve this goal. USAID, the Inter-American
Development Bank (IDB), and the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) offered technical assistance. They agreed
that one international and local consultant should be hired
to provide the needed technical know-how. The donors agreed
to suggest qualified consultants from their respective pools
of technical assistants. The MOE requested another meeting
on October 1.


7. The removal of Cepeda is clearly intended to defuse the
strike and continuing political uproar caused by the removal
of the previous director, Edwin Naula, who was reportedly an
ally of the main opposition Social Christian Party. The
naming of Cepeda was intended to assure the loyalty to the
government of an independent Congressional deputy
representing the Galapagos, Vinicio Andrade, who is allied to
Galapagos fishing interests. It is unclear how the removal
of Cepeda will affect President Gutierrez's fortunes in an
increasingly hostile Congress.
8. Victor Carrion is a Galapagos native who has a reputation
for being steady and apolitical. While the fishermen were
upset about Cepeda's ousting, they never quite called for
Carrion's head on a platter. Mission Ecuador will encourage
the parties to respect the truce at least long enough to
permit the proposed commission to be formed and make its
recommendation. We are promoting an independent commission
that is transparent and politically neutral. Such a
commission could prove to be the solution to the
politicization of the GNP Directorship under the Gutierrez
administration and return stable management to the Galapagos.


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