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Cablegate: Mayor's Race a Toss-Up in Ecuador's Third City

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 002702

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EC
SUBJECT: MAYOR'S RACE A TOSS-UP IN ECUADOR'S THIRD CITY


1. Summary. The Cuenca mayoral race is too close to call
between two strong candidates, Fernando Cordero (New
City-Pachakutik alliance), the incumbent, and Marcelo Cabrera
(Democratic Left), recently the provincial prefect of Azuay.
Meanwhile, Xavier Munoz, of Popular Democracy is the clear
front-runner for prefect of Azuay. The mayoral race in
Ecuador's third largest city is interesting because it pits
two popular incumbents against each other. End Summary.

Background Information
----------------------

2. PolOff visited Cuenca, provincial capital of Azuay
province September 30-October 1 for meetings with local
election officials, party officials and an NGO (independent
electoral observer). Cuenca, a charming town with
distinguished colonial architecture best known for the Panama
hats woven there, is also the third largest city in Ecuador,
located in the southern Sierra region. Azuay province has a
serious out-migration problem with many towns depopulated of
working aged men who have emigrated to the US and Spain.
Azuay has a total of 447,587 eligible voters (5.2% of the
national total) who will vote on October 17 to select a
provincial prefect (U.S. governor-equivalent), 5 provincial
councilors, 15 mayors, 64 municipal councilors and 59 rural
councils. Electoral officials predicted 30% absenteeism on
election day in Azuay province.

Mayoral Race Close
------------------

3. The mayoral race is too close to call between the
incumbent, Fernando Cordero of the New City party (allied
with Pachakutik) and Marcelo Cabrera, of the Democratic Left
(ID) party. Cabrera has served as Prefect of Azuay Province
for the last 8 years. Electoral watchdog NGO Citizens
Participation charged both candidates with posting signs on
public works, a violation of campaign rules. In response,
Cordero's campaign coordinator, Gabriel Ledesma, blamed
undisciplined supporters for the infraction. Cabrera
subsequently took down his signs.

4. New City campaign coordinator Gabriel Ledesma told PolOff
that Ecuador had suffered through 25 years of "party-ocracy."
Ledesma described New City as different in that it does not
make promises and had no party doctrine. In fact, New City
is not a party, but a local movement which has allied with
the Pachakutik party. While the Democratic Left accuses
Cordero of concentrating power in himself, Ledesma pointed
out that Cordero had passed 173 ordinances in cooperation
with the city council (showing he could work with others)
versus one ordinance passed by Prefect Cabrera. Ledesma
accused Cabrera of corruption in contracts for public works.

5. Orlando Albornoz, campaign manager of the ID in Cuenca,
emphasized that the ID is an ideologically-based party and as
eager to pronounce on local and national issues. He argued
that without the structure of a party, politicians are not
accountable for their actions. Albornoz echoed Munoz' public
statements in favor of greater decentralization of taxing
authority. Azuay province needs more power to directly
administer projects, such as new roads, he said. Albornoz
said Ecuador should work with international organizations
such as the World Bank and Inter-American Bank to fund
development projects. He also felt the US should look to
Latin America first for allies. Albornoz worried that
Ecuadorian markets would be invaded by American products
should an FTA be signed.

6. There are also two well-respected female candidates for
mayor, Susana Gonzalez, a former President of Congress (of
the For Cuenca Party) and Angelica Garcia of President
Gutierrez' Patriotic Society Party). The Supreme Electoral
Tribunal requires parties to allocate at least 40% of its
candidate lists to women. There are no female candidates for
Prefect of Azuay.

Munoz the Favorite in Prefect Race
----------------------------------

7. Xavier Munoz (Popular Democracy Party), a former mayor,
prefect and Congressman, stood out as the clear favorite in
the race for Prefect of Azuay province. Paul Carrasco of the
Democratic Left Party (ID) and Paul Granda of the New
City-Pachakutik alliance trailed Munoz in the polls. PolOff
attended a forum of the candidates for prefect organized by
Citizens Participation. All but Carrasco attended. A key
theme all candidates mentioned was the need for a better
highway system in Azuay province. Granda argued a better
road system was linked with improvements in the economy
health, education and tourism. Granda also felt these
improvements could stem the serious migration problem in
Azuay province. There were no other concrete solutions to
migration presented. Munoz instead proposed Congressional
reforms to allow local governments to make use of income
taxes to increase municipal autonomy from the central
government.
Citizen Participation Will Monitor Elections
--------------------------------------------
8. Citizens Participation (PC) regional coordinator told
PolOff that PC will have 500 volunteers monitoring elections
on October 17. These volunteers are aged 16-18 and represent
ten public and private schools. On October 2, a practice
session was held for the volunteers. Rodas touted PC's
sponsorship of the candidate forums as an important service
to voters. He described the meetings as civil, with no
personal attacks. (PolOff confirmed this at the session she
attended.) The forums have good turnout and were broadcast
on the radio. Previously, prefect candidate Munoz had been
attacked for his relationship with unpopular former President
Mahuad.

Electronic Vote to be Tested
----------------------------

9. The town of Totoracocha, with 12,724 eligible voters, has
received 80 electronic voting booths, lent to the GoE by the
Government of Brazil. Thirty-seven of the machines will be
used for voters to practice and forty-three will be used for
voting on election day. Each machine will be used by about
300 people. (Voting booths are divided by gender;
Totoracocha has 20 male booths and 23 female booths.) Voters
will not be allowed to vote electronically unless they have a
certificate proving that they have received prior training.
According to Dr. Jorge Moreno, President of the Provincial
Electoral Tribunal, as of September 30, 7,000 of the eligible
voters had received the necessary training. From October
1-15, additional training sessions will be offered. Voters
will also be able to practice on 30 machines on election day.
The Provincial Electoral Tribunal has been handing out
flyers door-to-door and using cars with loudspeakers to
announce the practice days and locations.

10. According to Moreno, minor parties such as New City and
For Cuenca have complained to the Provincial Electoral
Tribunal that voters can only see the majority party logos on
the electronic screen. Minority parties fear this could
influence voters on election day. Ledesma said that this
omission in the test voting machines could cause confusion on
election day, putting the votes of approximately 5% of Azuay
voters into question. Albornoz also feared electronic voting
could permit fraud through electronic manipulation. Post
expects the OAS to field a team of electoral observers to the
province.

Comment
-------

11. The election in Cuenca is interesting because it pits
two popular incumbents - one from a major established party
(ID) and one running against what established parties
represent. A Cordero win would reflect growing public
disenchantment with politics as usual. Conversely, a Cabrera
win would reinforce the ID's strength in the province and
nationally.
KENNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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