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Cablegate: Alien Smugglers Could Face Harsher Penalties In

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

1. Summary: The Ecuadorian Congress could pass by year,s
end new legislation that stiffens prison sentences for alien
smugglers, permits seizure and liquidation of convicted
smugglers' properties and nullifies debt instruments for
victims' payments to smugglers. The GOE renewed its
interest in cracking down on the crime in mid-August when 94
intending immigrants bound for the United States drowned off
the coast of Nicaragua. Nine people survived the accident.
Ecuador,s top immigration cop hopes that the proposed law,s
property seizure clause will funnel money into anti-smuggling
operations. End Summary.

For the Public Perception

2. The legislation, which will be debated by congress next
week, should pass without delay, Congressman Luis Fernando
Torres told Poloff September 7. Legislators know that last
month,s tragic deaths paired with heart-rending stories and
images of nine survivors still resound in the minds of
Ecuadorians who want to see alien smugglers pay big for their
crimes, according to Torres. "For the public perception" the
legislative body must act quickly, said Torres, head of
Congress' committee for civil and penal law.

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3. The lawmakers will consider merging two separate
proposals, one from the presidency and the other from three
congressional deputies. Both advocate increasing penalties
for convicted smugglers and broadening the net to arrest and
prosecute more players in the smuggling networks. Under a
revised law, persons promoting, facilitating or financing the
smuggling of persons in or out of Ecuador would face
sentences of eight to 12 years (up from the current three to
six years). Those responsible for the injury of a smuggling
victim could be imprisoned for 12 to 16 years. Persons
complicit in the death of an immigrant could be jailed for 16
to 25 years. Existing laws cap penalties for those
responsible for the death of an intending immigrant at 12
years. The maximum penalty for any crime in Ecuador is 25

We Can Do More with More

4. Ecuador's Director of Migration, Gen. Edmundo Ruiz, told
PolOff on September 8 that the increased penalties would be
critical to the fight against alien smuggling. He expressed
his desire to see the money from seized properties channeled
back into the anti-smuggling effort. He envisioned this
money being used to create more police intelligence units
like the "Centro de Operaciones Anti-Coyoterism (COAC),"
which is vetted and supported by NAS. The draft congressional
proposal pushes for the money to go to the families of
smuggling victims.

5. Stiffer penalties for alien smugglers and protections for
victims won't resolve the greatest problem facing police
authorities, however. "You can't have convictions if people
aren't willing file charges against the smugglers," according
to Ruiz. Even in grave cases like the one last month that
robbed families in Canar and Azuay provinces of their 100
loved ones, people don't speak out. The victims are afraid.
They're afraid of reprisals; they receive threats. They're
afraid of losing their properties. They also keep silent
because they're still holding out the hope of another
opportunity to escape their dismal fortune for a land of
opportunity, Ruiz said.

As If They Hadn't Given Enough

6. Many of the extremely poor families who lost relatives in
the August boat capsize mortgaged their homes to pay
smuggler's fees that are believed to have ranged from $10,000
to $12,000. Others were victimized by loan sharks or pawned
all their valuables. President Palacio's proposed
legislation would make all such contracts null and void upon
a smuggler's conviction.

7. Comment: We believe that proposed harsher penalties
against smugglers will be approved by congress. Channeling
the ill-gotten gains of alien smugglers into police work
could be very helpful to the fight. Whether this will happen
is questionable, however, given Congress' desire to
compensate victims. We will encourage the GOE to consider
devoting at least a portion of the funds to law enforcement.


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