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Cablegate: Congress Back in Majority's Hands

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 001255

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EC
SUBJECT: CONGRESS BACK IN MAJORITY'S HANDS

REF: A. QUITO 947

B. QUITO 1058

1. (SBU) Summary: With the reorganization of the
legislative commissions on May 26, the current majority
coalition, made up of the Social Christian Party (PSC), the
Democratic Left (ID), and Pachakutik (PK), consolidated its
control of Congress. Deputies from these three parties now
hold the congressional presidency and both vice-presidencies,
and preside over all 18 commissions of Congress. This
reorganization proceeded under the guise of necessity, but
represents Congressional power politics-as-usual. End
Summary.

2. (U) The pretext for this restructuring of Congressional
leadership and committee positions was the dismissal of 15
delegates for various reasons (reftels). The new leadership
of Congress is expected to hold power until January 4, 2007,
when the next Congress takes office.

Majority Presides Over All 18 Legislative Commissions
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (U) The PSC now presides over nine congressional
committees including the Civil and Criminal Commission,
headed by Luis Fernando Torres; and the International Affairs
and National Defense Commission, led by Alfredo Serrano. The
ID now holds five commissions' presidencies, including the
Labor Commission, presided over by Andres Paez, and the
Economic Commission, which will be dealing with oil sector
reform. Paez took over the Commission saying that the free
trade agreement would be a priority. Deputies of the
Pachakutik party hold the presidencies of the Human Rights,
Indigenous Affairs, Health and Environment, and Amazon
Affairs Commissions. 11 committees, including International
Affairs, Labor, and Civil and Criminal, are made up
exclusively of deputies from the PSC, IC, and PK.

Majority Heads Up Administration of Congress
--------------------------------------------

4. (U) The majority parties also hold Congress' leadership
positions: the president of Congress, Wilfrido Lucero, is a
member of the ID; Cynthia Viteri of the PSC is the first
vice-president; and on May 26, Jorge Guaman of PK was elected
as the second vice-president of Congress. Guaman stated that
his first priority as the new second vice-president would be
to set forth points of dialogue with the Executive in order
to establish an agenda of consensus. Guaman also criticized
the redistribution of the commissions, saying that it was
unfortunate that other parties were not given greater
representation. Although the PRE, Prian, MPD, SP, and PSE
hold no commission presidencies, they can still work hard
and, with their actions, break the majority's hegemony, he
noted.

Reorganization Denounced As Political Revenge
---------------------------------------------

5. (U) The minority parties accused the majority of carrying
out this redistribution for political revenge against the
former, pro-Gutierrez majority. Leaders of the new majority
justified their actions. Pascual del Cioppo, leader of the
Social Christian block said that the majority had to prevail
in the restructuring, as the old majority had done under
Gutierrez in January. The head of the ID block, Jorge
Sanchez, claimed that the commissions were reorganized
because they had not been functioning since January.
However, Luis Villacis (MPD), the ex-president of the Labor
and Social Commission, charged that the restructuring
violated the constitution, because members of the legislative
administration are normally elected for a two-year term.

Comment
-------

6. (SBU) Though the majority now firmly controls the
leadership of Congress, they only hold a 53% majority of
seats in the legislature. The Congressional reorganization
represents a continuation of Ecuador's grand tradition of
power politics. By using its slim margin to seize near-total
control of Congress, the PSC-ID-PK block has fashioned a
temporary majority which will likely support the GOE, at
least initially. Experience has proven these alliances to be
vulnerable to internal divisions and growing resentment by
the minority, which feeds public discredit of the legislative
branch.

7. (SBU) However, we see some potential bright spots in the
reorganization. The ID's Andres Paez is a close and
respected contact of the Embassy. We see good prospects of
working with him on the labor front; he is one of the few
members of Congress who has actively followed the FTA
negotiations to date, and has been supportive of our labor
rights agenda. Torres is a lawyer and legislator who could
be helpful in passing pending TIP legislation. We will also
engage with Serrano of the International Affairs Commission
to discuss Article 98 and other USG interests.
Kenney

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