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Cablegate: Los Rios Province: Working Hard for Progress

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 GUAYAQUIL 000412

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV ETRD EC
SUBJECT: LOS RIOS PROVINCE: WORKING HARD FOR PROGRESS


1. SUMMARY: Despite its rich soil and subsequent
agricultural importance for Ecuador, Los Rios province
faces an uphill battle in its struggle to regain the
prosperity it realized during the glory days of the
cacao industry boom. Woebegone colonial mansions may
dot the capitals landscape, but the decrepit, run-down
architecture pervading the rest of the city reflects the
reality for the majority of the provinces population.
Nevertheless, municipal and provincial leaders are
striving to make a better future for the next
generation. They view the signing of a free trade
agreement with the U.S., improvements in the education
system, attracting more tourists, and closer ties with
h
Quito as their best hopes. END SUMMARY.


-------------------------
So Close, Yet So Far Away
-------------------------

2. Guayaquil Consul General, Pol/Econ officer, and PAS
specialist traveled to Babahoyo, capital of Los Rios
province, on March 30 for meetings with local
authorities, the first such official USG visit in many
years. He also visited with the Consulates warden in
Babahoyo and toured a factory that exports canned fruits
and vegetables to the U.S.

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3. The provincial capital of Babahoyo may be just an
hour away from financial powerhouse Guayaquil, but it is
worlds away in terms of development. In fact, it is
often referred to as Ecuadors least urbanized capital,
and within minutes of crossing Babahoyos city limits,
it becomes apparent how it achieved such notoriety.
Noteworthy tourist attractions include a litter-strewn
park, a modern cathedral rapidly losing its facade,
and former floating brothels recently converted to
family dwellings.

gs.

4. Poised between the two dominant provinces of
Pichincha and Guayas, Los Rios has a population of
750,000. According to the governor, 80% of Ecuadors
agriculture is based in Los Rios, its 300-odd rivers
providing irrigation to soil rich in nutrients.
However, as other officials pointed out, because 85% of
the land is owned by a small number of people, the
majority of the population is comprised of poor farmers
with barely enough land to turn a profit, much less
compete with the agro-industrial conglomerates. That
fact, combined with a lack of employment opportunities
outside of farming, produces high levels of emigration
to other cities and countries.

--------------------------------
Authorities Agitating for Change
--------------------------------

5. In office less than three weeks, newly appointed
Governor Roboan Gavilanes used the CGs protocol visit
to publicly lay out his plans for the province. At a
surprise (at least to us) press conference/staff
f
meeting, he expounded on the merits of education to
promote development, and of the need to impart
discipline in the governing structure and population.
Heavy on sweeping statements emphatically delivered, and
light on substance, his speech was redolant of the
campaign trail of his failed run for prefect in the 2004
sectional elections. However, he did profess interest
in dialogue with the USG regarding efforts both entities
could undertake to promote regional investment.

6. During a luncheon hosted in honor of the CG by the
acting prefect and members of the provincial council,
several people expressed their strong support for the
signing of a free trade agreement with the USG. Though
they all hail from the agricultural sector, one of the
sensitive areas in current negotiations, they are more
apprehensive about what they would lose if such an
agreement did not come to term than any difficulties
they may face during a transition period.

7. Los Rios Prefect Jorge Marun (PRE) was away in
Quito, joining other provincial leaders in a meeting
with President Gutierrez. The purpose of the meeting
was to secure project funds and transfer payments the
central government had promised the province more than a
year ago, and according to newspaper reports the prefect
prevailed. A member of the PRE party, Marun began his
second term as prefect in January 2005. He enjoys
tremendous support from the provincial council, whose
members credited him with triple the number of paved
roads in the area and for obtaining greater recognition
for Los Rios from Quito, among other things. Several
even expressed their desire to see him become Ecuadors
next president.

8. Babahoyo mayor Jonny Teran of the PSC (Social
Christian Party), also discussed his efforts at
improving the image of Los Rios through a variety of
public works projects in its provincial capital. Teran
said he had participated in an international visitor
program and was visiting Washington, D.C. on September
11, 2001. Though not a proponent of the autonomy
movement, Teran did say that he was a friend of
Guayaquil mayor and fellow PSC party member Jaime Nebot,
and that Nebot had collaborated with him on a number of
projects.

9. Re-elected with 56% of the vote in the 2004
sectional elections, Teran is interested in projects to
help clean up the city (ranging from recycling and
landfills to converting brothels and casinos into low-
income housing), as well as improving education through
tutoring programs and increased access to computers.
Like his colleagues in the provincial council and
governors office, he boasted of the numerous, yet
undeveloped, tourism opportunities in the region
primarily related to their almost 300 rivers.

-------
Comment
-------

10. Los Rios province is faced with challenges and
opportunities. Its heavy concentration in agriculture
has left many of its inhabitants in poverty, while at
the same time eclipsing alternative development options.
As a result, its leaders view improvements in the
education system as the key to their breaking the cycle
of poverty. As one councilman put it, how can a child
schooled in a rural area with few resources hope to
compete with an urban child who has access to trained
teachers and superior materials. At the same time, they
are hopeful that a free trade agreement with the U.S.
would help to diversify their market base.

11. As is often the case on visits to less-prominent
areas, the CGs trip was widely covered by local press,
both print and television media. Questions by these
reporters, as well as during a radio interview with the
provinces largest station, focused on what the U.S.
could do for Los Rios than any protests against U.S.
policies. There were no negative comments or questions.


HERBERT

UNCLASSIFIED4

SIPDIS
UNCLASSIFIED
UNCLASSIFIED
FIED

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