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Cablegate: Some Movement Toward Political Reforms

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 001976

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EC
SUBJECT: SOME MOVEMENT TOWARD POLITICAL REFORMS

1. (SBU) Summary: The process of selecting a new Supreme
Court is moving forward, with assistance from the UN, OAS,
and others. The government's parallel effort to formulate a
political reform referendum based on citizen input is back on
track, after an initial wobble. The OAS is receiving USG
support for the Supreme Court process, and recently inquired
about possible USG support for the referendum process as
well. We view the first as essential to build rule of law
here, and the second as desirable, but with results less
certain. End Summary.

Supreme Court Being Put Back Together
-------------------------------------

2. (U) Ecuador has lacked Supreme and Constitutional Courts
since April, when Congress disbanded them shortly after
ex-president Lucio Gutierrez was ousted on April 20. Among
other cases piling up without resolution in the meantime,
ironically, is one against Gutierrez for statements
undermining stability from abroad. Gutierrez recently added
another--a complaint demanding his restitution to office.

3. (SBU) Lacking a constitutional basis to select an entire
new court, Congress in April chose to create one by law. The
resultant selection process has been provisionally blessed by
the international community, in recognition of the urgent
need to strengthen the judiciary and rule of law here. To
avoid flaws in the new law, however, UN Rapporteur Leonardo
Despouy recommended that the selection committee simply
ignore some provisions of the law. The majority of the
4-member committee have recently resolved to do so.
Supporters of the process, including Despouy and the OAS
representative here, believe it desirable to shield the new
court from future constitutional challenges by putting the
selection process to a popular referendum (hypothetically,
this could be added to the political reform referendum).

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4. (U) In addition to the UN, the OAS is observing the
selection process, sending recognized regional legal experts
(Sonia Picado of Costa Rica and Jose Antonio Viera Gallo of
Chile) to Ecuador August 22-26, with USG support. The Madrid
Group and Community of South American Nations have also been
actively monitoring the process, with visits by Brazilian FM
Amorim and former Spanish PM Felipe Gonzalez. OAS
representative Carlos Ocampos told us on August 19 the
process was proceeding, and should culminate in a new court
by the end of the year. The new Supreme Court would
subsequently name the members of a National Judicial Council
to nominate a new Constitutional Court.

Government's Referendum Process Moving Forward
--------------------------------------------- -

5. (U) The Government's process to solicit input from the
public on desired political reforms, led by Vice President
Serrano with the assistance of the independent Modernization
Commission (CONAM) suffered a setback when President Palacio
unilaterally announced his own preferred reforms on August 2.
After Congress returned those proposals summarily, Palacio
recovered by apologizing to the President of Congress and
reaffirming his support for the Vice President's efforts.
Those efforts resulted in 25,000 suggestions from the public,
which are being sorted by a team of nine judicial experts
funded by the Spanish, who have actively supported CONAM's
referendum efforts.

6. (SBU) OAS representative Ocampos told PolChief and AID
Deputy Director on August 19 that the Vice President had
recently requested OAS support ($60,000) to fund 15-20
Ecuadorian judicial experts, to seek consensus between the
government, Congress and civil society on how to winnow the
public's suggestions into a viable referendum. The experts
will include regional and party balance, to show
inclusiveness and build potential for consensus. Ocampo
requested USG support to the OAS for this purpose. We will
meet with the OAS experts at the conclusion of their visit
next week to hear their views.

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) We are encouraged by progress toward selection of a
new Supreme Court, which is essential to begin rebuilding
Ecuadorian jurisprudence and rule of law. The outcome of a
referendum, however, is less certain, since little consensus
exists on what reforms will strengthen Ecuador's unstable
democratic institutions (a range of possibilities has been
floated already, including the creation of a Senate, election
of Congress by district, elimination of the second round of
voting, and others). Consensus building is clearly
necessary, however, to make any progress in this direction.
Any viable reform will require consensus among the
government, political parties, and civil society. Even then,
a positive result will require convincing a politically
unsophisticated electorate to vote in favor.
BROWN

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