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Cablegate: Ecuador: Democratic Action Planning

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 QUITO 001190

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS TO USOAS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL EC
SUBJECT: ECUADOR: DEMOCRATIC ACTION PLANNING


1. (SBU) Summary: With democratic stability set back by
repeated irregular changes of government, the mission has
begun a process to take stock of our democracy-support
efforts and chart new directions. That action planning
process will culminate, we hope, in a clear analysis of the
challenge ahead. That analysis will, in turn, become the
basis for a range of policy and program options to support
democratic strengthening. Ecuadorian society, meanwhile, is
launching its own debate about possible democratic reforms,
which will affect the realm of possibility. We face our own
policy constraints in Nethercutt and impending TIP sanctions,
but aim to maximize the impact of limited resources in
support of democracy here. End Summary.

Democracy is Broken Here
------------------------

2. (SBU) None of the last three democratically elected
presidents of Ecuador has successfully served out his term.
During the same nine-year period, seven presidents, not
counting a triumvirate that lasted only three hours, have
ruled Ecuador. The most recent president to be deposed was
Lucio Gutierrez on April 20. Gutierrez had himself
participated in a 2000 coup that brought down his
predecessor, Jamil Mahuad. The first democratically elected
president in this recent cycle of instability was Abdala
Bucaram, who lasted seven months in office. Ironically, by
letting Bucaram return from exile in Panama in March,
Gutierrez fueled popular protests that sealed his own fate.
Bucaram is now back in Panama. Mahuad lives in the United
States. Gutierrez is now living in Brazil.

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Diagnosis and Prescriptions
---------------------------

3. (SBU) The fall of Gutierrez involved complex
constitutional questions, but the problem of instability in
Ecuador stems from a different popular conception of what
democracy means. Most Ecuadorians believe it means the
support of the people. When a significant segment of the
people are dissatisfied enough to mobilize, they demand
change from the streets rather than wait patiently for a
chance to decide at the ballot box. Political elites are
complicit in this process, seeking to use popular discontent
as a weapon to advance their own interests. While the causes
of popular discontent and the composition of the popular
forces which provoked the fall of the last three elected
presidents have varied, the result has been the same: an
irregular change of government caused by popular protests in
the capital.

4. (SBU) Most Ecuadorians took the recent irregular fall of
the government in stride and were initially diverted by the
process of selecting a new government and cabinet. With that
over, the national debate is shifting toward the need for
political reforms. While no consensus has emerged, several
possible elements are clear.

-- Executive: the GOE, beholden to street protesters for its
creation, wishes to be responsive to citizen calls for
reform. President Palacio has offered a vaguely defined
public dialogue process, to be managed by the Vice President.
The dialogue process is intended to generate ideas for
possible inclusion in a popular referendum. Palacio met with
UNDP and other international representatives on May 19 to
publicly request support and technical assistance to
facilitate the process.

-- Congress: Congress has completed its Supreme Court
reform, which now moves toward implementation. Congress will
also debate possible electoral reforms (to regulate
proportional representation, permit representation by
districts) and constitutional changes (the creation of a
Senate, to balance national and local interests). Some have
also floated the idea of a semi-parliamentary system through
the institution of a prime minister, accountable to Congress.
Congress is already the venue for debate over a reform to
expedite the referendum process, which currently includes a
year-long cooling off period before constitutional reforms
can be voted on.

-- Judicial: With the Supreme Court on the (probably rocky)
road toward recovery, several other judicial issues linger.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal has been re-conformed to
reflect the new balance in Congress. Some, however, are
calling for constitutional reform to make the tribunal
independent of political parties, rather than controlled by
them. The Constitutional Court, meanwhile, remains to be
reconstituted by Congress. The selection of an Attorney
General is also pending, awaiting the reconstitution of the
National Judicial Council by the eventual Supreme Court.

-- International Organizations/Donors: On May 16 President
Palacio and VP Serrano met with international organizations
including UNDP, UNICEF, the Andean Community of Nations to
request financial and technical support for the government's
social dialogue (the OAS representative was invited but did
not attend). UN representative Mauricio Valdes later told
the Ambassador that the UN had concerns about becoming
involved in an ill-defined dialogue process, after
unsuccessful experiences elsewhere. Former Spanish Prime
Minister Felipe Gonzalez visited Ecuador May 16-18 on behalf
of the Madrid Club. He privately urged Palacio to lead the
dialogue process himself, and to be pragmatic in focusing his
plan of government.

-- Civil Society/Protest Movement: Has been invited to help
organize and participate in national dialogue with the GOE.
Some are demanding guarantees from Palacio that he will
submit any FTA with the U.S. to a referendum before signing,
and will include the issue of whether to hold a constituent
assembly (dissolving Congress) on the referendum. Follow-up
protests against the GOE have fallen flat, perhaps reducing
their influence. Civil society groups have announced a
100-day deadline for the government to develop its referendum
proposal, with civil society input.

USG Interests
-------------

5. (SBU) The question of whether our efforts prolonged the
tenure of the last government is moot; our efforts to promote
democracy, as we know it, have again failed to bring an
elected government to term here. Political instability has
high costs and elevates risk, economic and otherwise.
Irregular changes of government are inherently unpredictable,
put ongoing USG interests at risk, and force us to start over
with a new government. While we are doing so with the
Palacio government, the Ambassador also launched an internal
process to evaluate the problem of democratic instability,
and seek to devise options to address it.

Action Plan
-----------

6. (SBU) AID has led the mission's democracy action
planning process, inviting full participation from other
country team elements. One focus is necessarily short-term,
since the democracy debate is in full swing here, but a
parallel process is focusing on longer-term structural
issues. We have also launched dialogues with international
financial institutions and donor representatives, who have
agreed to develop a common framework to support democracy and
judicial strengthening, in a coordinated dialogue with the
government. The mission's review process will culminate at a
Country Team retreat which will define a concise problem
statement concerning democratic instability, and chart a
range of short-term actions to address longer-term problems,
for consideration by incoming mission leadership (and
ultimately Washington agencies).

7. (SBU) The outcome of this process will be affected by a
host of factors and constraints, among them (on our side)
existing Nethercutt and impending TIP sanctions, which will
force us to withdraw direct support for the GOE and channel
assistance through civil society, and vote against Ecuador in
the International Financial Institutions. While these
constraints have their own merits, they will complicate the
task of supporting democratic progress here.

8. (SBU) Ultimately, the Ecuadorian people will determine
the health and fate of democracy in Ecuador. We share with
them an interest in democratic strengthening, and seek to use
our limited resources to maximum effect.

Chacon

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