Cablegate: Donors Losing Patience with Management of Galapagos

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

REF: A. QUITO 2923

B. QUITO 2704

1. Summary. Ecuador continues to take two steps backward
for each step forward in the Galapagos. President Gutierrez
signed a decree in October banning the export of shark fins
from Ecuador (Reftel A), to promote conservation. The
Minister of the Environment, Fabian Valdivieso, however,
replaced the interim director of the Galapagos National Park
(GNP) yet again with a pro-fishing advocate, to the
consternation of the donor community. The Japanese aid
agency (JICA) is threatening to withdraw funding if stability
in the GNP is not restored. In a meeting with the
Ambassador, Valdivieso acknowledged the problems but
presented no clear vision on fixing them. His only request,
when asked how we could help him, was to ask the Ambassador
to raise these issues with President Gutierrez. The Embassy
is currently re-evaluating our aid program, looking for ways
to promote conservation in the Galapagos. End Summary.

Another Interim Director

2. Citing the Civil Service Law that only permits interim
directors to be in place for a period of no more than 60
days, Minister of the Environment Fabian Valdivieso removed
Victor Carrion as Interim Director of the GNP on November 11.
Valdivieso seems to have broadly (some would say dubiously)
interpreted this law, which further states that after the
60-day period has expired a permanent director must be
installed. Victor Carrion was only in office for 45 days
when he was removed. However, contrary to his own legal
view, Valdivieso did not name a permanent director. Instead
he appointed another temporary director, Marco Hoyos, who had
been working in the Environmental Education department in the
GNP. Hoyos, 60-day term will expire on January 11, 2005.
Valdivieso also mentioned that he had faced political
pressure to replace Carrion, thus fueling Mission concerns
about GOE's commitment to depoliticize the GNP.

3. Hoyos made his agenda clear from day one - aid local
fisherman. He removed the Chief of the Marine Reserve Unit
and the Control and Surveillance Unit. He also "recommended"
that many of the Marine Reserve guards take vacation until
their contracts expire at the end of December 2004, the same
time the lobster-fishing season ends. These changes will
severely limit monitoring of the Marine Reserve during this
critical fishery season.

--------------------------------------------- -----------
Minister of the Environment - All Rhetoric/Little Action
--------------------------------------------- -----------

4. The Ambassador met on November 26 with Valdivieso to
discuss the prolonged instability in the Galapagos. She
frankly noted that there is a lot of discontent in the
international community about how management of the GNP is
spinning out of control. Donors are contemplating pulling
out of the Galapagos because of the lack of stability and
vision in park management, she told Valdivieso. JICA (the
Japanese International Aid Organization) sent a strongly
worded letter to GNP Director Hoyos (which has received wide
distribution) stating that such abrupt changes in personnel
would cause the Japanese Government to consider the GNP
unstable. They stated that there is clear precedence of JICA
projects being terminated because of such instability.

5. In addition to the conflict between "conservationists"
and "extractionists", Valdivieso noted that there is a
growing tension between the tourism and fishing industries
over the utilization of the marine reserve. He talked
obtusely of short-term actions and long-term goals to address
the conflict between users of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
He said he would have the new, permanent director in place
before Hoyos' term expires (See Reftel B for explanation of
proposed process for choosing park directors). He said he
would also work to stabilize the contracts of the park
employees. (Note: Some 225 GNP yearly contracts expire on
December 31. Neither Valdivieso nor Hoyos have indicated if
those contracts would be renewed or if those workers would be
replaced with new employees.) Valdivieso proposed
establishing a Sub-Secretary position in the Ministry of the
Environment to oversee the Galapagos. He would also like to
convene an international forum here in Ecuador some time in
the Spring 2005 to address the broader Galapagos issues. He
also asked the Ambassador to call President Gutierrez and
clearly explain the ramifications of continued international


6. Valdivieso would be the primary beneficiary from the
proposed establishment of a Sub-Secretary to oversee the
Galapagos, because it will give him a ready scapegoat should
else go wrong in the Galapagos. We gave a lukewarm response
to his idea to introduce yet another level of bureaucracy
into the process.

7. We support the idea of an international forum on the
Galapagos to address the long-term issue of sustainable
development, but have made it abundantly clear to Valdivieso
that the instability in and politicization of the GNP needs
to be addressed now, before other donors begin withdrawing
support. We are also re-evaluating our Galapagos aid program
looking for more sticks in addition to the carrots we have
offered in the past.

8. The Ambassador regularly bends the President's ear on
Galapagos matters and, given the heightened international
exasperation with how the Gutierrez administration has
handled the Galapagos, will raise the issue again. But,
without concrete measures by the GOE to stabilize the
situation, Ecuador will soon face serious consequences from
donors and in degradation to this International Heritage


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