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Cablegate: New Minister of Environment Acknowledges

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. 04 QUITO 2704

1. Summary. In a courtesy call with the new Minister of the
Environment, Anita Alban Mora, Embassy and USAID officials
presented Galapagos and illegal logging as the Mission,s two
top environmental priorities. Alban agreed that these issues
were serious and said she planned to deal with them,
welcoming cooperation with us and the donor community. She
accepted a USAID invitation for a briefing on their programs,
planned to meet with the donor community as soon as feasible,
and commented that she would go to the Galapagos soon to
begin working issues there. She also noted that she would
try to implement the independent and transparent process for
selecting directors of the Galapagos National Park (GNP) that
the donor community and we have pushed for months. We
congratulated her on her choice of interim GNP Director,
Washington Tapia, a figure well and favorably known to us.
End Summary.

Young and Nervous

2. At 37, Anita Alban is by far the youngest of Palacio,s
cabinet. Her reputation preceded her into this position
(Reftel A), indicating that she is likely neither qualified
nor capable of handling ministerial-level responsibilities.
She is also thought to owe this position to Lourdes Luque, a
former Minister of the Environment, Palacio-family associate,
and Guayaquil political figure. She was very nervous at the
beginning of the meeting but relaxed towards the end,
realizing that we had not come to lambaste her but to offer

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3. Alban came alone to the meeting. We first laid out our
top concerns - Galapagos and illegal logging. We then
congratulated her on her choice of Washington Tapia as
interim director of the GNP. First, she said, Galapagos is
also a priority for her. She commented that she would seek
to implement the transparent and independent process for
selecting GNP Directors, as formulated by USAID/UNDP/IDB
funded consultants (Reftel B). This would go a long way
towards depoliticizing the park, our short-term Galapagos
goal. She also explained that income-generating alternatives
for fishermen were a medium-term goal. She has contacted
FOMIN about establishing some sort of credit system to help
move fishermen into tourism and other sustainable activities.

4. Illegal logging was also of concern to her. We commented
that Ecuador is only second to Brazil in its rate of
deforestation. She understood and nodded when we suggested
that independent third party monitoring is probably the
answer. We discussed the SGS case, a Swiss company who had
the contract with GOE to do independent monitoring of illegal
logging. SGS was so effective that logging interests managed
to have their contract nullified by the courts in 2003.
There has been no effective monitoring of illegal logging
since. Alban, to our surprise and in contrast to the
position taken by other GOE officials, commented that the SGS
contract was still valid. She said she was meeting with SGS
later that day.

Meet the Family

5. We encouraged her to become involved with the donor
community in order to work on issues. USAID offered to brief
her on their programs and she accepted the invitation. She
also said she hoped to engage the international community as
soon as possible in order to establish environmental

Conservation Wins the Trifecta in Galapagos

6. There are three appointed positions in the Galapagos of
exceptional prominence and importance to conservation efforts
- the Director of GNP, the Head of INGALA (Instituto Nacional
de Galapagos), and the Governor of Galapagos province.

7. Washington Tapia was named interim director of GNP by
Alban. Wacho, as he is known, is a very technically
qualified director who is well and favorably known to us. He
participated in our IV program and we have very good
relations with him.

8. Carlos Carrion, brother of former GNP Interim Director
Victor Carrion, is also a good choice for Head of INGALA.
While some have found him eager to please everyone with whom
he meets, he is environmentally oriented and will likely
support conservation efforts in the Galapagos.

9. Finally, Grace Unda was selected to be Governor of
Galapagos province. She was previously a virtually unknown
figure in the Galapagos, working as the Provincial
Coordinator for Vive la Democracia. We recognized her
commitment to democracy and honesty early on and nominated
her to participate in our IV program before she became
governor. This should establish a good working relationship
with her now that she is governor.


10. While not yet seasoned, Alban seems to be making the
right choices. Our fear is that her benefactor and political
interlocutors will start demanding anti-conservation
decisions from her. Our hope is to bring her into our fold
far enough to educate her and help her resist such difficult
political demands.


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