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Cablegate: Embassy Pushing Stability Message Hard

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

UNCLAS QUITO 002886

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM EC
SUBJECT: EMBASSY PUSHING STABILITY MESSAGE HARD

REF: A. QUITO 2874

B. GUAYAQUIL 1231
C. QUITO 2869
D. QUITO 2868
E. QUITO 2859

1. SUMMARY: Reftels outline the current political quicksand
enveloping GoE President Lucio Gutierrez. Believing further
instability runs counter to Ecuadorian and U.S. interests,
the Embassy is immersed in an outreach campaign to bolster
rank-and-file support for constitutional democracy and the
country's freely elected leader. END SUMMARY.

2. Four political parties are arrayed against Gutierrez:
the PSC, ID, MPD, and Pachakutik. Impeachment proceedings
began October 28 and may run until year-end. Although most
experts doubt the opposition can sum the necessary votes in
Congress to remove the president, he undoubtedly will emerge
further weakened (Gutierrez's approval ratings hover around
10 percent). Believing such volatility damaging to
Ecuadorian and U.S. goals, the Embassy has stepped up public
and private outreach in an effort to buoy the GoE. We have
seen some success already, as anti-Gutierrez media play has
diminished in recent days.

3. Our private contacts are regular and numerous. During
this week's round of Andean Free Trade Agreement talks in
Guayaquil, the Ambassador and Guayaquil CG called on two key
opposition politicians, Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot and
Guayas Prefect Nicolas Lapentti. Both hail from the Social
Christian Party (PSC), whose leader, Leon Febres-Cordero, is
leading the impeachment crusade (Reftels). In Quito on
October 27, the Ambassador talked instability and its side
effects with Gutierrez. She discussed the president's
defense strategy the same day with Minister of Government
Raul Baca. Last, in an October 22 working lunch with Defmin
Nelson Herrera and Joint Forces Chief Admiral Victor Rosero,
the Ambassador reviewed, amongst other topics, the
potentially stabilizing role of the military in weak
democracies like Ecuador (Ref E).

4. The Embassy's PA campaign is equally robust. From JOs to
counselors and agency heads, Embassy staff have deployed
throughout Ecuador, ostensibly to discuss U.S. elections but
driving home a between-the-lines message: modern democracies
change administrations via the ballot box, not the gun barrel
or the smoke-filled room. Post's Information Officer gave
print and radio interviews in Cuenca, Ecuador's third city.
And in trips to coastal cities Manta and Machala, the
Ambassador emphasized the USG's firm support for Ecuadorian
democracy and GoE institutions. We back our dialog with
dollars, she clarified, funding projects in Ecuador to
advance the rule of law, strengthen local governance, and
augment law enforcement.

5. Consulate General Guayaquil has leveraged the Embassy
effort with its own outreach campaign. As three of Ecuador's
five largest political parties hail from the coast, the
Consulate is well-placed to advance the stability message.
Non-Mission USG personnel too have joined the media campaign.
USTR's Regina Vargo, leading the U.S. FTA negotiating team,
has not missed an opportunity to promote Gutierrez's
commitment to free trade, calling it a boon to Ecuador's
long-term prosperity.

6. COMMENT: Gutierrez's survival depends on Gutierrez, of
course, and Ecuador's democracy on Ecuadorians. Yet the
Embassy can employ weapons to help prevent the nation from
entering another self-inflicted, political death spiral. We
walk a fine line between loitering by and "uninvitedly
involving ourselves in internal Ecuadorian matters" (and face
criticism for either tack). But a political meltdown, and
the real possibility of an accompanying economic collapse,
make inaction unthinkable. END COMMENT.
KENNEY

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