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Cablegate: Cordial Meeting with Correa

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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 002617

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/26/2016
TAGS: ECON ETRD EINV EC
SUBJECT: CORDIAL MEETING WITH CORREA


Classified By: Ambassador Linda Jewell for reasons 1.4 (b&d)

1. (C) Summary: In a cordial meeting with presidential
candidate Rafael Correa on October 26, the Ambassador
underscored USG impartiality in the upcoming November 26
election and commitment to a fair and transparent electoral
process. She said we will seek to pursue areas of
convergence with the next government, whoever is elected.
Correa responded favorably, taking pains to signal openness
to continued security cooperation against transnational
threats, and downplayed points of potential bilateral
contention. In alleging widespread fraud in the first round,
he focused his complaints against Ecuadorian electoral
authorities, and not the OAS. Correa clearly saw the meeting,
which we requested, as useful to his efforts to re-position
himself as more moderate in the second round, and invited
press to photograph the opening of the meeting. He welcomed
the Administration's backing of ATPDEA renewal for Ecuador
but privately and later publicly reiterated his opposition to
a FTA. The Ambassador also has a pending meeting with
presidential front-runner Alvaro Noboa. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The meeting was arranged at the Ambassador's
request, but the venue and publicity were selected by Correa.
It follows a similar but more private encounter during the
run-up to the first round of presidential voting on October
15, in which Correa placed second to Alvaro Noboa. A similar
request is pending with Noboa, to continue the Ambassador's
ongoing private dialogue with him.

This meeting took place, at Correa's suggestion, in a private suite in a Quito hotel.
The Ambassador was accompanied by the DCM. Correa was joined
by his running mate, Lenin Moreno, and Vinicio Alvorado
Espinel, whom he introduced as his campaign manager and
director of communications, apparently a new member of the
team (Alvorado's business card indicates he is president and
creative director for "Creacional," a PR firm with offices in
Quito and Guayaquil). Correa requested the Ambassador's
permission to admit the press for a photo-op; she consented
and press coverage was widespread. During the photo session,
Correa joked to the press, "look at the communist/terrorist,
meeting with the American Ambassador."

Areas of Convergence Welcomed
-----------------------------

3. (C) Correa welcomed the Ambassador's overture to finding
areas of mutual interest with a potential Correa government.
On economics, he agreed that competitiveness reforms and
anti-trust laws were potential areas of convergence. The
U.S. anti-trust law is a model for the world, he said--no
modern, market economy could function without similar
constraints. He rejected the characterization of his
programs to generate employment and production as statist,
with the exception of Petroecuador, which he would
"incorporate but retain 100% state control with no private
investment." He discussed increasing investments in
agricultural modernization, microcredit and education. His
overarching development goal, he said, lapsing into English,
is to create a "huge middle class" in Ecuador. When asked
what would be his most important economic reform, he focused
on ending collusion within the banking sector. He said he
was pro-trade, but reiterated his belief that Ecuador was
"not ready" for a FTA with the U.S. and lamented the
constraints on macro-economic policy of dollarization.

4. (C) Correa strongly signaled his commitment to collaborate
in the fight against narco-trafficking under a Correa
government. Asked by the DCM if he would be open to
extradition of Ecuadorian narcos to the U.S., Correa said he
saw no reason not to (comment: apparently unaware of the
current constitutional bar on extradition of Ecuadorian
nationals). Correa seemed unaware of the challenges to USG
interdiction efforts caused by Ecuador's 200-mile sovereign
claim in the maritime sector. We chose not to raise access to
the Manta base, nor did he.

4. (C) Correa, ever the economist, at one point suggested
the U.S. might legalize drugs to correct the illegal market
dynamics (Moreno reacted strongly against this--citing the
social costs of drug use, including alcoholism).

5. (C) Correa said he would maintain the current level of
8,000 troops on the northern border with Colombia, but would
seek compensation for Ecuador's costs. Ideally, he said, an
international force could help secure Colombia's side of the
border, but he recognized that was an unlikely and difficult
proposition. He would have "zero tolerance" for the presence
of any illegal armed groups in Ecuador, or incursions by the
Colombian military, for that matter. On the issue of the
FARC specifically, he confessed that "I'm just a middle class
guy. If I call the FARC terrorists and lose the election, who
is going to protect me and my family (from them)?"

6. (C) Asked which political reform he would prioritize,
Correa said voting by district, "just like in the U.S." To
do so, a referendum on a constituent assembly was
unavoidable. Asked how he felt about the appropriate role of
the military in the economy, Correa said "none, but what they
do have is actually minimal."

7. (C) Correa had much to say about the dirty campaign to
discredit him, ascribing blame mainly to Leon Febres Cordero
and also to his opponent, Noboa, whom he closely associated
with Febres Cordero. He lamented that his campaign could not
match the resources Noboa had access to, and called for the
TSE, OAS, and international community to speak out against

SIPDIS
campaign overspending and impunity demonstrated by the Noboa
campaign.

9. (C) Correa spoke at length about fraud in the first round
of voting, but blamed Ecuadorian election authorities, not
the OAS, for the failures to detect the fraud. As examples
he said some PAIS poll watchers were paid to leave the
polling stations early on election day; votes were bought;
and whole voting boxes were substituted. Fraud was most
rampant in the Amazon region, Manabi province and the eastern
Sierra region. He contended that some towns in the Amazon
and in Manabi, (including where Moreno's family lives in the
Amazon), reported 100% of the votes for Gutierrez or Noboa,
which was just not credible in his view. The Ambassador
urged Correa to share any evidence of fraud with the OAS.
Correa said the OAS had great credibility, but worried that
fraud was just as likely to occur in the second round. To
monitor and prevent fraud would have required 10,000 PAIS
observers, and we had 3,000, he said. The lack of a quick
count for the second round would make it easier to commit
fraud, he asserted. Though he needed to focus on the
campaign, he would dispute fraudulent results strongly if and
when they occurred.

Correa Makes Hay
----------------

10. (U) After the meeting, Correa told the press that he
insisted to the Ambassador he would not enter into an FTA
agreement with the U.S. as currently negotiated. He said he
continued to press for ATPDEA renewal, which Ecuador deserved
for its continued cooperation against narco-trafficking.

Comment
-------

11. (C) Correa appeared tired and his earlier infectious
sense of confidence seemed dimmed by misfortune in the first
round of voting. Nevertheless, his tone was good humored,
and never shrill. We sensed that he realizes that his best
chance may have passed, but he is by no means giving up the
fight. He clearly sought to emphasize common ground during
the conversation, speaking repeatedly about his very positive
regard for the American people and rejecting as ludicrous the
labels of communist, etc. that have been used against him. He
twice apologized for the comment he had made about President
Bush, saying that while he thought it was amusing, it was
inappropriate and he regretted having said it. His invitation
to the press and later remarks were clearly an attempt to
moderate his image and to appeal to more centrist voters.
JEWELL

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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