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Cablegate: Usns Comfort Visit to Ecuador

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RUEHSN/AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR IMMEDIATE 2056
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL IMMEDIATE 2717
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS QUITO 001945

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MARR MASS MOPS SNAR PTER EC CO
SUBJECT: USNS COMFORT VISIT TO ECUADOR

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The USNS Comfort stopped in Manta,
Ecuador, on August 15-21 during its humanitarian assistance
deployment in the region. In coordination with Mission
Ecuador personnel, NGOs and Ecuadorian authorities, members
of the medical ship provided some 51,000 instances of
medical, dental and veterinary services and training to local
citizens and their communities, including physicians and
medical students, hospitals and schools. Senior members of
the Ecuadorian military and federal and local governments
participated in a tour of the Comfort's operations, as well
as the Manta Forward Operation Location. The visit received
extensive local and national press attention and was
portrayed as a positive, humanitarian contribution by the USG
to the people of Ecuador. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On a 120-day humanitarian assistance deployment to
Latin America and the Caribbean, the USNS Comfort stopped in
Manta, Ecuador, on August 15-21. Members of the U.S. Navy,
Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Public Health Service, Canadian
forces, and the NGO Project Hope were assisted by multiple
Embassy sections and the U.S. Forward Operating Location
(FOL) in Manta. They coordinated with Ecuador's MFA, Joint
Command, Navy, Air Force, the Manta Ministries of Health and
Education, and other local institutions to provide
humanitarian assistance to the people of Ecuador.

3. (SBU) Medical services included Project Hope,s medical
training for doctors, nurses and medical students at the
Rodriguez Zambrano General Hospital, which was tailored
specifically to the needs of the hospital, covering subjects
ranging from high-risk pregnancy to HIV prevention and
infectious disease control. Seabees from the Construction
Battalion Maintenance Unit built one mobile and 13 concrete
disability ramps, and provided construction services to a
hospital and four schools. Medical supplies worth $13,405
donated by Project Handclasp were delivered to the Rodriguez
Zambrano Hospital. Preventative medicine physicians and
technicians provided veterinarian services to farmers and
animal owners in Arroyo, Ecuador, including vaccinating
livestock, vaccinating domestic animals against rabies,
applying de-worming medications to cattle, and providing
education and training to prevent future infestations. An
estimated 51,208 encounters, including medical and dental
services, examinations, procedures, vaccinations and
prescriptions, as well as training conducted by Project Hope
volunteers, were provided to Ecuadorian citizens.

4. (U) Fourteen Navy musicians from the U.S. Navy Show Band
livened up the visit by entertaining several hundred
enthusiastic citizens of Manta with a musical performance at
Manta's boardwalk on August 19. They held a Sunday concert
in Montecristi, symbolically-charged birthplace of Eloy
Alfaro, Ecuadorian ex-president and leader of the Ecuadorian
Liberal Revolution, which will be the meeting site of the
upcoming Ecuadorian Constituent Assembly. The Mayor and
hundreds of town residents showed up for the event. The band
also played for hundreds of people waiting to be treated at
the medical treatment sites.

5. (SBU) The USNS Comfort visit drew participation from
senior members of the Ecuadorian military as well as local
and central governments, and contributed significantly to the
Embassy's campaign to create a more favorable climate for
possible renegotiation of the Manta FOL agreement by
reinforcing the positive humanitarian contribution the U.S.
military can and does make in Ecuador. During the ship's
Distinguished Visitor (DV) program, Colonel Eduardo Cardenas,
Commander of the Ecuadorian Air Force 23rd Wing at Eloy
Alfaro Airbase, toured the Comfort and helped facilitate an
impromptu visit to the Manta FOL by senior GOE officials,
including MFA Undersecretary for Bilateral Affairs Diego
Stacey, MOD General Under Secretary Miguel Angel, Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs S. Ward Casscells,

SIPDIS
Under Secretary of Health Ricardo Canizares. Local
officials, such as Manabi Province Governor Vicente Veliz and
Manta Mayor Jorge Zambrano Cedeno also participated. The
first such visit by any Correa administration official, this
distinguished delegation was escorted through the FOL by its
Commander, LTCOL Robert Leonard. This was followed by a
lunch with Charge d'Affaires Jeff Brown and key FOL personnel
at the FOL dining facility.

6. (U) The Embassy pursued an aggressive press strategy to
maximize the positive impact of the Comfort's visit, in line
with our 18-month Manta FOL communications strategy. Press
coverage of the visit was very positive and it received
considerable national attention. National television
coverage included 17 news reports on all national television
channels for a total of 39 original on-air minutes, with
follow-on reporting the mornings or afternoons following the
original broadcasts. There were at least another six
regional television spots, including an interview with
Guayaquil Consul General Douglas Griffiths, which appeared on
Manabi province's number one television station. In mostly
factual reporting, the press dedicated considerable time to
operations at the various treatment centers on the ground,
but also included human interest spots on the "first-patient"
story, the ship visit by Miss Ecuador with a group of
patients with skin diseases, and a note about a
Guayaquil-native Comfort ship member who helped operate on
his cousin. Articles in all national newspapers and major
radio stations followed similar themes.

7. (SBU) Project Hope, which participated in the Comfort
visit, was very pleased with the results of the work it did
in Manta. Bill Fox, Project Hope,s Chief Operation
Officer, is now planning a trip to Ecuador in September to
continue its work and to discuss developing a joint project,
perhaps in the form of a private-public partnership between
Project Hope, Hutchinson, and the Beneficiary Council in
Guayaquil to offer community health training in Manta. This
could become another opportunity for USG assistance and
community outreach involvement.
BROWN

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