Cablegate: Ecuador-Colombia Border Progress Report -


DE RUEHQT #2384/01 2692115
O 262115Z SEP 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 002384



E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/06/2014

REF: A. QUITO 02078

B. QUITO 02151
C. QUITO 02289

Classified By: PolOffJarahnHillsman, Reasons 1.4 (b&d)

1. (C) Summary: The following report provides a quarterly
update of developments along Ecuador's northern border with
Colombia. Highlights include the Ambassador's travel to
Esmeraldas province, progress disrupting narco-trafficking, a
change of Defense Minister, and renewed diplomatic tension
over an errant mortar attack from Colombia which injured
three Ecuadorian civilians. End Summary.

Ambassador Highlights Development in Esmeraldas
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (C) The Ambassador visited the province of Esmeraldas on
June 30 to inaugurate a USAID funded water system in the town
ofBorbon, and to express continued USG support for basic
infrastructure projects in vulnerable northern border
communities. In public and private the Ambassador stressed
the importance of investing in basic sanitation and health
projects, as well as licit income generating ventures.
USAID, by 30 September will have completed 36 water and
sanitation systems, bringing much needed basic services to
populations along the troubled northern border with Colombia.

3. (U) The Ambassador on June 16 signed an agreement with
Foreign Minister Carrion adding 10.5 million in FY06 ACI
funds for northern border development. Carrion told the
press that "the Ecuadorian government appreciates U.S.
assistance for the most abandoned areas of Ecuador...which
reflects how the two countries are united to develop
vulnerable zones in the northern border."

Progress Disrupting Narco-Trafficking

4. (C) The Ecuadorian National Police (ENP) Anti-Narcotics
Unit discovered and destroyed 10 hectares of coca plants over
the last six months, the majority of which were found in the
Esmeraldas province. The ENP Anti-Narcotics Unit carried out
eradication with military force protection, a major
indication that police-military counter-narcotics cooperation
is improving. Meanwhile, maritime interdiction efforts
resulted in the capture of 20 metric tons of cocaine in
September alone. The Ecuadorian military seized over 160,000
gallons of petroleum ether (white gas) between 01 July and 13
September. Petroleum ether is an organic solvent used in the
manufacturing of cocaine in Colombia. Information provided
by DEA's Ecuador office led to the seizure of 319 kilos in a
cargo container in Bridge Port, Bahamas and 200 Kilos in
Mumbai, India, the largest such bust ever made there.

5. (SBU) Conclusion of the NAS funded San Lorenzo pier in
the northern province of Esmeraldas has been delayed due to
contracting problems (now set for December/January 2007).
The $2.7 million dollar investment will greatly improve the
Ecuadorian Navy's ability to monitor and interdict narcotics
traffickers in an area where we have seen a significant
increase in activity. Narco-traffickers are currently moving
drugs into Ecuador on speed boats and connecting with larger
vessels off the Esmeraldas coast. Drugs are also being
smuggled through San Lorenzo's extensive riverine and
estuarine networks. Completion of this project will be good
news for our counter-narcotics efforts in the region.

IAG Activity Persists

6. (C) Colombian Illegal Armed Group (IAG) activity in
Ecuadorian territory, mainly in the Carchi and Sucumbios
provinces, is on the rise. We have seen an increase in IAG
movement in this region as well as in the number of Colombian
sympathizers and local residents entangled in illegal
activity. In response, the Ecuadorian military executed two
very large operations (approximately 1500 personnel) in
Sucumbios, disrupting FARC activity in that sector.
Ecuadorian-Colombian military cooperation at the tactical
level remains very positive, helping to deny FARC and other
narco-terrorist free reign in the northern border region.
Unfortunately, aside from the anti-narcotics units, police in

the region remain understaffed, underfunded, and corruption
within the ranks a persistent problem.

Cross-Border Relations Positive But Tense

7. (C) Ecuador-Colombia cross-border cooperation and
communication remains positive despite several border
incidents over the last four months. Director General for
Border Relations with Colombia Ambassador Claudio Cevallos
recently expressed GOE concern that FARC sympathizers in the
northern border region are actively trying to undermine GOE
efforts to deepen cross-border development and security
initiatives. Cevallos explained that the GOE has information
that the FARC through the press and local supporters is using
hot-button issues like aerial fumigations on the Colombian
side of the border and accidental Colombian military
incursions to try and derail high-level government
cooperation. Cevallos reported that many in the GOE are
acutely aware of the FARC's activities and of the growing
narco-terrorist threat and are working, within current
political constraints, to address the problem. This may be
the reason for the GOE's more muted response to accidental
Colombian military incursions into Ecuador over the last few
months. The GOE's more measured responses and the previously
established bi-national committees have helped the two
governments maintain fluid communication on a number of
cross-border issues.

8. (C) The bilateral border development plan originally
scheduled to be signed by the foreign ministers on September
7 was postponed due to scheduling conflicts. Cevallos
reported that the signing would take place in mid-October.

Mortar Incident Tests Relations

9. (C) Improved cross-border relations were severely tested
when a mortar round from a Colombian military-FARC fire
exchange in Teteye, Putamayo exploded in the Ecuadorian town
of Puerto Nuevo, SucumbiosonAugust 23. The explosion
damaged a bus station and injured three Ecuadorian nationals.
Public outrage spread quickly forcing the GOE to issue a
strong public statement condemning the action and demanding
an explanation and compensation for the injured. The
Colombian government initially faulted the FARC and said that
an investigation was underway, but after further GOE pressure
announced that it would compensate the victims. However, the
GOC response stopped short of any admission that the mortar
originated from the Colombian military - a claim made by the
GOE. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Francisco Carrion told the
Ambassador in a recent meeting that he phoned Colombian
Foreign Minister Maria Araujo to encourage a speedy response
given public discontent in Ecuador. Soon thereafter,
according to Carrion, the GOC agreed to compensate the
injured. Seeking to put the issue to bed, the GOE did not
demand an actual admission of guilt on behalf of the
Colombian military (reftel A).

White Paper Released; MinDef Resigns

10. (SBU) Former Defense Minister OswaldoJarrion on August
10 released the Ministry's "National Defense Policy 2006",
citing the need to have a well defined strategy for
addressing transnational crime and to protect national
sovereignty. The "white paper" offers a significant shift in
Ecuador's security policy, stressing the need to secure the
country's northern border with Colombia and frustrate
narco-trafficker efforts in Ecuador (reftel B). Many
criticizedJarrin for overstepping the military's role by
suggesting increased counter-narcotics measures. Jarrin on
August 28 announced his resignation, citing unspecified
elements in opposition to the military's counter-narcotics
role as forcing his unexpected exit. Newly appointed Defense
Minister Marcelo Delgado has vowed to maintain efforts
initiated under Jarrin, recently announcing that he would
close and move 14 military bases from southern Ecuador to the
northern border region (reftel C).

U.S. Military Support Limited But Effective

11. (U) The U.S. Military Group (MILGP) conducted a Medical
Readiness Training Exercise July 13-29 in the northern border
province of Esmeraldas. The U.S. military team performed 37
plastic surgery operations, repairing cleft lip and palates
and severe burns. The humanitarian exercise was well
received by local residents and received positive press
coverage. The MILGP also recently provide 12,000 back-packs
with school kits for distribution in select school districts
along on the northern border, and has additional kits ready
for distribution.

12. (C) The MILGP currently has a U.S. Army Special Forces
Team training select Ecuadorian military units in the
northern provinces of Esmeraldas and Sucumbios on light
infantry tactics. To increase the Ecuadorian military's
operational capabilities, the MILGP supplied northern border
units with 195 night observation devices. MILGP funding also
helped the Ecuadorian military produce and disseminate 84,000
informational packets in support of their weapons control
initiative. The same program provided funding that allowed
the Ecuadorian Police to produce and disseminate 250,000
anti-drug informational products.

13. (C) A MILGP funded mobile radio station was successfully
brought on-line in Maldonado, Carchi province. As the first
Ecuadorian government radio station established in the area,
the initiative will help counter the FARC dominated messages
currently broadcasted. The radio station will play music and
broadcast messages that support Ecuadorian national identity,
discourage illicit activities, and promote the Ecuadorian
military's positive role in the region.

"JUNTOS" Campaign Hits Primetime

14. (U) USAID expanded its "JUNTOS" (together) campaign,
adding an additional $500,000 in funding. The new messages
hit radio and TV news programs in late August, and over 24
2-minute infomercials will appear on TV news programs into
October. USAID also secured agreements with newspapers,
magazines, and credit card companies to include "JUNTOS"
information in their mass mailings. The GOE financed the
cost of "JUNTOS" commercial spots played during the 2006
World Cup. Worth an estimated $200,000 in free advertising,
the spots reached 80% of the Ecuadorian population. The
"JUNTOS" campaign is quickly gaining recognition and should
help to better highlight USG development activities in the
northern border region.

Poor Sanitation Linked to NB Health Problems

15. (U) An important new study was completed documenting the
health impact of water and sanitation in northern border
communities. Nine communities where USAID had funded water
and sanitation improvements were compared to areas still
lacking such investment. The report found a consistent
correlation with improved health statistics and USAID funded
water sanitation projects in the nine communities, and an
even greater consensus among beneficiaries and health workers
interviewed that theses infrastructure improvements led to
better health. This confirms our suspicions that health
problems previously attributed to aerial glyphosate spraying
are more likely connected to poor health care and limited
access to clean water and basic sanitation services.

Economic Development Slow But Steady

16. (U) Overall, jobs and income improved in the region as
well. A total of 2,000 new hectares are ready to be planted
with new cocoa plants from nurseries owned by farmers
associations, increasing to more than 20,000 hectares.
Approximately 500 farmers are completing a basic training on
cocoa farming and post-harvest technologies through the
highlight successful Farmers Field Schools. The Coffee
Growers Cooperatives Association of Rio Intag (ACCRI) is
collecting and processing arabiga coffee beans to ship 400
quintals to Japan in early October 2006. Producers from the
northern border Amazon provinces continue to export robusta
beans to Colombia at favorable prices.



17. (C) The Ecuadorian government on balance continues to be
a good partner in regional counter-narcotics and
counter-terrorist fights. The Ecuadorian military and the
Anti-Narcotics Unit are fully cooperative and open to U.S.
regional objectives to combat international crime. The
recently released "white paper" and Minister of Defense
Delgado's vow to strengthen the military's security presence
in the north to counter IAG activity and deny narcotics
traffickers entry into Ecuador is another indication of a GOE
focus on the nation's real security threats.
Ecuador-Colombia military-to-military cooperation at the
tactical level is also positive and supports USG regional
objectives. We remain concerned, however, that military and
anti-narcotics funding constraints continue to hinder greater

18. (C) High-level Ecuador-Colombian cross-border
cooperation is improving, but remains fragile. Another
Puerto Nuevo type incident could provide the FARC and
anti-Plan Colombia elements ammunition to undermine bilateral
political gains. Outrage here over the mortar explosion and
what many view as empty promises by the Colombian government
to avoid such incidents persists. With an agreement on
monetary compensation for the Puerto Nuevo injured still
pending, the incident remains subject to political
manipulation. While it appears that the GOE's approach was
measured and meant to quell public concern, it becomes harder
to do so with each fresh incident.

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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