Cablegate: Ecuador Elections: Andean Parliament Sideshow


DE RUEHQT #2458/01 2831205
R 101205Z OCT 06




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: ECUADOR ELECTIONS: Andean Parliament Sideshow

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 15, many Ecuadorians may be surprised
to learn that they must also decide, in addition to selecting among
the candidates for president, Congress, provincial and municipal
council officials, who will represent them in the little known,
little respected, Andean Parliament. The race has significance,
however, to the older, distinguished, and sidelined politicians
seeking to fill Ecuador's five slots in the Parliament. It also
counts to the parties supporting them, who receive a boost to their
survival prospects with every vote. Exceptional candidates like
Ivonne Baki even have hopes of making the Parliament relevant.
Ultimately, however, the Parliament has yet to prove its importance
to the average voter. End Summary.

Background and Electoral History

2. (U) On October 15, Ecuadorians will go to the polls to elect a
new president, congressional deputies, mayors, provincial officials
and five parliamentarians to the Andean Parliament. The Parliament
is currently composed of members from Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and
Bolivia, with Venezuela opting out and Chile joining as an associate
member in 2006. The Parliament's assembly, its main decision-making
body, currently consists of twenty members, five from each member
country, with a two-year revolving presidency and three vice
presidents. The Parliament's main objectives include integration of
the member states, harmonization of laws, and coordination and
cooperation among its member parliaments. The Parliament is based
in Bogota, and Colombia currently occupies the presidency. One of
Ecuador's newly elected Parliamentarians will assume the presidency
in 2007.

3. (U) The Parliament is part of a set of Andean regional
institutions. The Andean Community of Nations (CAN), created in
1969 under the Cartagena Accord, is a sub-regional economic and
political organization based in Lima, Peru. In 1979, the CAN signed
a treaty creating the Andean Court of Justice, the Andean Parliament
and the Andean Council of Foreign Ministers. The CAN's five
original members were Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and
Venezuela. In April 2006, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez withdrew
Venezuela from the CAN in protest against the signing of Free Trade
Agreements between Colombia and Peru with the United States, and
joined MERCOSUR.

4. (SBU) The Parliament has a credibility problem, and is widely
viewed as irrelevant since it does not have binding regional
legislative powers. Luis Fernando Duque, current Andean Parliament
president, acknowledged in press reports that the organization's
main challenges were to further integration and finally become
relevant to member states' citizens. Duque cited as a key step
forward prospective implementation in 2007 of a new "Andean
passport," which will allow citizens unimpeded travel and freedom to
work in any of the member states. He also claimed as a modest but
notable success the recognition of university degrees from all
member countries.

5. (U) Prior to the 2002 elections, Ecuador's Congress selected its
five Andean Parliament members. Beginning in 2002, the candidates
were chosen by popular vote. Unlike on other ballots, where voters
may choose between voting for individuals or by party list, voters
may only vote by party list for the Parliament. The votes count
toward the five percent minimum required to retain official party
registry. The five winning candidates, in descending order of
popularity, were Juana Vallejo (PSC), Blasco Pena Herrera (PSC),
Freddy Ehlers (NP), Hector Solorzano (PRE), and Jorge Fantoni

The Current Race

6. (U) In the election on October 15, 35 Ecuadorian candidates,
from nine political parties, are vying for five Parliament
positions. Among the most prominent and heading each party list are
former Ambassador to the U.S. Ivonne Baki (PSP), former president
Sixto Duran Ballen (UDC), and former congressman Marcelo Dotti
(PSC), Wilson Sanchez (PRIAN), and Guillermo Landazuri (ID).

Ivonne Outshines the Rest

7. (SBU) Baki served in 1998 as Ecuador's first female ambassador
to the U.S., ran unsuccessfully for president in 2002, and served in
Lucio Gutierrez' government as Commerce minister. A long-time
friend of the Embassy with many influential friends in the U.S.,
Baki told PolOff on October 5 that her friend and fellow
environmentalist Bo Derek had recently visited Ecuador for the fifth
time to promote the Galapagos Foundation and to offer her support
for Baki's candidacy. In April, Ms. Derek was named as U.S. Special
Wildlife Envoy of the Secretary of State for wildlife trafficking.
Her current trip was again to promote the foundation's conservation
efforts in the Galapagos Islands and to offer her personal support
for her close friend's candidacy.

8. (SBU) Baki admitted she had not done much campaigning for the
Parliament because most Ecuadorians are not familiar with the
Parliament. As a parliamentarian she would lead the effort to
expose her countrymen to the Parliament's functions and importance.
She believed the current group of Ecuadorian parliamentarians had
failed to do so, partly due to contentious relations between the
Ecuadorian members.

9. (SBU) If elected, Baki would work on lowering unemployment and
poverty, improving education and health care, attracting foreign
investment, creating business opportunities and promoting peace. In
the latter Baki referred to Colombia's internal conflict. She would
also support expanding the Parliament's power to legislate, along
the lines of the European Community, to increase its relevance.

10. (SBU) Touching on national politics, Baki commented that
Ecuador's middle and upper classes were demoralized about politics
and instability, and many would abstain from voting. She confided
that if front-runner Rafael Correa won the election and insisted on
convoking a Constituent Assembly without congressional support,
chaos could ensue. If Correa were to force the issue by calling his
supporters into the streets, she worried that "civil war" could
break out.


11. (SBU) The Andean Parliament is viewed as irrelevant to most
Ecuadorians, a sinecure for older or sidelined politicians. Baki's
candidacy strikes us as an exception, given her aspirations,
background, and force of personality. Ever optimistic and
forward-looking, Baki told the DCM she had already lined up support
to assume the Parliament's presidency in 2007. Her dire warnings of
civil war should Correa win the Ecuadorian presidency give us pause,
but could be exaggerated. If recent history is any guide,
Ecuadorians are more likely to give a new president a chance before
taking to the streets.

© Scoop Media

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