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Cablegate: Correa Signs Decree to Prevent Airing Of

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHQT #1637/01 2011724
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 201724Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY QUITO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7427
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 6764
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 2611
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUL 0655
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 1781
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 2562

C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 001637

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/20/2017
TAGS: PGOV PHUM EC
SUBJECT: CORREA SIGNS DECREE TO PREVENT AIRING OF
CLANDESTINE VIDEOTAPES

REF: A. QUITO 1573 B. QUITO 1607

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Jefferson Brown, reasons 1.4 (b)
and (d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: On July 9, President Correa signed an
executive decree prohibiting reproduction of clandestinely
recorded video and audio without the authorization of those
involved. The media association responded saying the decree
was unconstitutional. While Vice President Lenin Moreno
claims the intention of the decree was to protect the right
to privacy, in light of videos implicating Finance Minister
Ricardo Patino in possible corruption and rumors of
additional videos implicating other members of the executive
branch, it is likely the decree is an attempt by Correa to
protect his administration. END SUMMARY.

PRESIDENTIAL DECREE ALLOWS FOR EXCEPTIONS
-----------------------------------------
2. (SBU) The presidential decree, which officially went into
effect July 18, alters an article of the radio and television
broadcasting law by prohibiting transmission of videos or
audio tapes, but not in all cases. It provides an exception
if the video or audio is recorded by the media or public
sector using its own equipment and with the purpose of
impeding or providing evidence of a criminal act. This
exception would conveniently allow the government to use
clandestine tapings for its purposes, such as evidence
against the 18 congressmen who allegedly offered to sell
their votes in exchange for appointments in key government
entities (Reftel A).

RECENT CLANDESTINE VIDEOS, RUMORS MORE FORTHCOMING
--------------------------------------------- ---------------
3. (SBU) The decree was announced a few days before Congress
approved a vote of no confidence in Finance Minister Ricardo
Patino on July 13(Reftel B). Suspicions regarding Patino
were triggered by the airing of a video showing Patino
conversing with representatives interested in selling
insurance on debt bonds. Additionally, the decree came
shortly after ex-congresswoman Gloria Gallardo planned to
have certain unaired parts of the Patino video broadcast,
which, according to her, would confirm that Patino delivered
privileged information to Venezuelan banks.

4. (U) Recent incidents of release of clandestine videos
include:

-- national TV station Teleamazonas' broadcasting of a
conversation between Patino and President of Congress Jorge
Ceballos,
-- national print daily HOY's reproduction of a conversation
in which Sports Minister, Raul Carron, bragged about his
influence on Correa, and
-- the airing of conversations between Supreme Court
President Jaime Velasco, leftist legislator Ramses Torres,
and former vice-president and Constituent Assembly candidate
Leon Roldos by various national media outlets.

MEDIA OUTLETS UNITE IN THEIR REJECTION OF CORREA'S DECREE
--------------------------------------------- --------
5. (C) Representatives from radio and television stations met
July 16 to discuss the decree. They approved a statement
that the media are in no way bound by "the unconstitutional
executive decree" and that they will therefore continue to
gather information from various sources and inform the public
as they always have. A member of the board of Ecuadorian
Association of Radio and Television told an embassy official
that he felt that there was now a "common front" among
journalists as a result of the decree. Representatives from
numerous media sources that did not attend the meeting have
likewise publicly affirmed their agreement with the published
statement.

CONGRESS TO ISSUE RESOLUTION TO CONSTITUTIONAL TRIBUNAL
--------------------------------------------- ----------
6. (SBU) Congress took up the issue in a special session on
July 18, where it approved a resolution requesting the
Constitutional Tribunal declare the executive decree
unconstitutional. Members of Congress claim they have new
videos of Patino, but that they will wait to release them
publicly until the Constitutional Tribunal rules the
president's decree unconstitutional. Members of Congress
have even suggested that they are aware of compromising
videos involving President Correa himself.

CORREA DECLARES THE LAW WILL BE ENFORCED
----------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Upon his return from Europe July 18, President
Correa emphasized that authorities will enforce the new
prohibition on airing clandestine videos. He emphasized that
sanctions for violation of the broadcasting law are in place
and could result in fines and even the suspension of the
broadcasting frequency of the offending media outlet.

COMMENT
-------
8. (C) With recent incidents of videotaping of President
Correa's cabinet members, it seems unlikely that the decree
originates from an altruistic desire to protect personal
privacy. Rather, Correa is likely attempting to avoid any
further embarrassments or distractions in the run-up to
Constituent Assembly elections on September 30.
JEWELL

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