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Cablegate: Ambassador Protests Attacks On Civil Society

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


B. QUITO 424

1. (SBU) The Ambassador on March 7 expressed concern to
President Lucio Gutierrez about the latest in a series of
attacks on civil society groups, involving the Ecuadorian NGO
"Citizen Participation" (PC), an AID democracy program
grantee. Gutierrez claimed not to be aware of the incident,
a hostile march and break-in to PC's offices, which occurred
earlier in the day, but promised to investigate it fully.
The Ambassador sent Embassy security personnel to the scene
during the incident and later personally called PC director
Cesar Montufar to express Embassy concern and solidarity.
The Embassy spokesman publicly condemned any acts of violence
or threat against civil society and encouraged more civil
political discourse. We will monitor GoE efforts to
investigate this and other recent cases. End Summary.

Facts of the Case

2. (U) Around 0900 local time on March 7 approximately
50-100 persons arrived at PC offices in Quito, chanting
slogans and carrying placards identifying them as members of
"Zero Corruption." This group was formed by the Ecuadorian
Roldosista Party (PRE) of fugitive ex-president Abdala
Bucaram in December 2004 to support the government and the
newly-packed courts. Protesters shouted threats against PC
director Cesar Montufar, forced entry onto the grounds and
sprayed the premises with anti-PC and anti-US graffiti. Upon
hearing of the incident, the Embassy sent police security
patrols to the scene. The protesters remained outside PC
offices for an hour before dispersing when police and media
arrived. PC staff remained sequestered inside their offices
during the incident but were unhurt. The Ambassador later
called Montufar, who said he and his staff were shaken but
undeterred, and expressed appreciation for Embassy efforts on
PC's behalf.

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3. (U) Montufar had become a controversial public figure
since helping organize and participating in the February 16
anti-government protest march in Quito. He subsequently made
public USG and European financial support to PC for its
electoral monitoring and pro-democracy activities. The
action against PC came after a series of incidents
threatening the security of various government opponents,
including a March 5 shooting attack on a socialist
congressman, Enrique Ayala Mora. In response to growing
security concerns, on February 25 the IACHR had requested GoE
protective measures for ten opposition figures, including
Montufar. Amnesty International and Transparency
International had recently called publicly for the government
to thoroughly investigate recent incidents of intimidation
and violence against the opposition.

Ambassador Weighs in with President

4. (SBU) The Ambassador expressed concern to President
Gutierrez about the implications of this incident at a
previously-scheduled lunch (SepTel) on March 7. The
Ambassador noted growing concern about what some perceive to
be a pattern of violence and intimidation of government
critics. She defended the role of civil society groups such
as PC, which seek to defend democracy, occasionally by
protesting government actions. USG support for such
pro-democracy groups is non-partisan and would continue.
Later the same day, in response to press inquiries, the
Embassy spokesman was quoted condemning "any act of violence
or intimidation against members of civil society" and
emphasized the need for dialogue and civilized, non-violent
political discourse.

5. (SBU) Gutierrez, who had recently returned to the capital
from a trip to the Galapagos and Guayaquil, claimed that he
had not heard of the incident. He thanked the Ambassador for
bringing it to his attention, and promised to investigate.
Unfortunate recent incidents of violence and intimidation
were not in the government's political interest, and must be
stopped. Gutierrez said he had called Ayala in the hospital
to express his support.


6. (SBU) Gutierrez' professed unawareness of the action to
pressure PC is certainly possible but suspect. The "Zero
Corruption" group is a creation of the PRE, a government ally
and defender of the packed courts. A presidential advisor
had earlier conveyed to us Gutierrez' personal pique at PC
leader Montufar for his activism directed against him,
personally, and the current Supreme Court (Ref A), and the
MFA summoned the AID director to inquire about PC's US
financing (Ref B). Nevertheless, Gutierrez' acknowledgment
that such actions hurt, not help, the government, seemed
sincere. We will continue to press for a full investigation
of this and other incidents to prevent further abuses.

© Scoop Media

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