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Cablegate: Ecuador,S New Environmental Minister More

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. (SBU) Summary. President Gutierrez named Juan Carlos
Camacho as the new Minister of the Environment on February
24, replacing the beleaguered Fabian Valdivieso. Camacho has
no real environmental experience and was given the position
to assuage the block of independent congressmen who hold the
balance in Congress. Camacho is a political operator who is
working for fishing interests in the Galapagos in order to
secure their vote for the President. He has also promised to
take action on renewing the contract of a Swiss firm that was
monitoring illegal logging in Ecuador. At two different
meetings (Reftel), President Gutierrez called for a balanced,
sustainable solution to the Galapagos crisis. While we are
optimistic about the President,s words, we are wary of
Camacho,s alliances with the fishing sector. End Summary.

Bio Says A Lot

2. (U) Juan Carlos Camacho is more than anything a
politician. He was twice a congressional representative for
Bolivar province ) first for the Concentracion de Fuerzas
Populares (CFP) from 1988 to 1990, and then for the Izquierda
Democratica (ID), from 1992 to 1994. During his second term,
he left the ID and became an independent.

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3. (U) In October 1994, then-legislators Simon Bustamante and
Rafael Cuesta accused Camacho of being &the briefcase man8
for the independents, implying that he was dispersing the
cash used to buy the votes of independent congressmen.
Camacho denies these allegations.

4. (U) Camacho has no environmental experience except that,
as he put it in a post-nomination interview, he &has planted
trees with his own hands8 and &has a clear notion of what
clean air is.8

Courtesy Call Reveals More

5. (U) The DCM and USAID Director paid a courtesy call to
Camacho on March 8. The DCM congratulated Camacho on his new
position and said the Embassy stood ready to help him conquer
some of the many difficult problems he will confront.
Galapagos was the Embassy,s top environmental concern and we
were encouraged by the President,s recent attention to the
Galapagos crisis and call for a 30-day plan to resolve it
(Reftel). The DCM delivered our baseline message to Camacho
-) that the Galapagos crisis is Ecuador,s to solve and that
the international community wants to help Ecuador achieve its
goals. The DCM also urged Camacho to quickly address park
management instability, monitoring and enforcement in the
marine reserve, income-generating alternatives for fishermen
and illegal immigration.

6. (U) Camacho said he understood the need for action in the
Galapagos and that he would take action, unlike his
predecessor, who he admitted did not like to make decisions.
Camacho would like to reform the Galapagos Special Law in
order to stabilize and depoliticize the Galapagos National
Park (GNP) Directorship. He rejected the DCM,s suggestion
(as per the UNDP/IDB/USAID consultants hired to analyze this
problem) that it could be done by presidential decree.
Camacho admitted that there is a lot of politics surrounding
the Galapagos, suggesting that he too was involved. He said
he would meet with the Ministers of Tourism and Government
soon, to reach a unified position on the Galapagos. He also
said that violent demonstrations in the Galapagos need to
stop. They damage the image of the islands and serve no one.

7. (U) The USAID Director noted the USG,s $10 million
investment in the Galapagos. He also agreed with Camacho
that dialogue is important among the players, and to that end
the fishing sector needs to rejoin the Junta de Manejo
Participativo (JMP - a Galapagos planning and advisory board
comprised of the conservation, tourism, government and
fishing sector representatives). The fishing sector walked
away from the JMP years ago citing conservation as the
exclusive goal of the body. Camacho accepted the invitation
from the USAID Director for a full briefing on USAID programs.

8. (SBU) The USAID Director also raised concern about the
GOE,s failure to renew its contract with the Swiss firm SGS.
SGS was given a contract in 1999 to monitor illegal logging
in Ecuador. In 2003, bowing to pressure from powerful
logging interest, the offices of SGS were closed and its
contract allowed to expire. The parties resolved outstanding
legal problems and the GOE agreed to renew SGS,s contract.
However, the GOE now claims it lacks the finances to renew
the contract. Though, we believe the problem is more the
lack of political will than finances.

9. (U) The DCM emphasized the extensive international
interest in the Galapagos. The Ambassador has been there on
numerous occasions; several US Senators (notably Dodd and
McCain) have been there, as has former President Jimmy
Carter. The previous Minister of the Environment had visited
the Carter Center to lay the groundwork for an international
forum. We stood ready to work with Camacho in that regard,
the DCM added.
Meeting with Donors Confirms Our Opinion
10. (U) Acting on the President,s orders (Reftel), Camacho
convoked a meeting of donors. He started the meeting by
saying that we must avoid any future strikes in the
Galapagos, but added that the fishermen in the Galapagos have
threatened to demonstrate if the sea cucumber season remains
closed this month (March) without a viable income-generating
alternative for them. The fishermen are pushing for
long-line fishing as the desired alternative, otherwise come
March 20 they will take to the streets.

11. (U) The Spanish representative spoke eloquently about the
problems in the Galapagos ) institutional instability, the
need for sustainable development, illegal immigration ) but
said that harvesting sea cucumbers and long-line fishing were
certainly not the answer. The other donors said that they
wholeheartedly agreed with this assessment and noted that the
March 20 strike date left little time for finding a lasting
solution. The Interamerican Development Bank (IDB)
representative suggested that the GOE put the artesenal fish
processing centers they funded, which are fully constructed,
into production. This could be done quickly and the products
could be sold to tourists. Others tossed out medium-term
ideas for fishing alternatives. One idea was to auction
fishing permits to sport-fishing operators for tourists. The
permits would be limited in number, but tradeable. Others
spoke of raising park entrance fees and putting the proceeds
in a fund to establish fishermen in other occupations. The
donors suggested that we get all the players together (to
include fishing and tourism sector representatives) to
brainstorm and agree on specific measures.

12. (U) Though he listened, Camacho made no commitments,
emphasizing that he is still in the learning process. He
added that his predecessor did not leave good files on the
Galapagos and that there was no one to advise him. He
requested that Fundacion Natura and the Charles Darwin
Foundation comment on fishing alternative proposals presented
to the President during his trip to the Galapagos.

13. (U) Despite his professed steep learning curve, Camacho
was prepared enough to present a proposal. As the meeting
ended, he circulated his own proposed presidential decree
that would require all tourists who visit the Galapagos to
spend at least one night on land, would open the marine
reserve to sport fishing, and (in an apparent jab at tourism
magnate Roque Sevilla) would prohibit the use of submarines,
or any kind of submersible naval vessel in the marine reserve
(Sevilla wants to offer submarine tours in the Galapagos).


14. (SBU) The appointment of Camacho portends of further
political expediency in the Galapagos. Camacho is aligned
with the independent vote, and is rumored to owe his
appointment to (former PSC) Independent diputado San Martin,
who led the effort to dismantle the forestry control system.
He and Vinicio Andrade, the pro-fishing diputado from the
Galapagos, whose vote the President has courted, have also
laid out a clear agenda in support of fishing interests in
the Galapagos.

15. (SBU) Camacho,s proposed presidential decree lacks
balance, feasibility and ultimately will only minimally
benefit fishermen. Our task will be to educate and guide
Camacho toward more sustainable alternatives. The
President,s recent focus on Galapagos and public
pronouncements give us cause for hope, but we need to see
concrete actions. The Ambassador will also sign a joint
communiqu to the MFA asking that the SGS issue be resolved
as soon as possible, as the treatment SGS received does not
bode well for other environmental NGOs operating in Ecuador.

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