Cablegate: Ecuador: Ambassador Inaugurates Nas-Funded Pier


DE RUEHQT #2434/01 3042054
O 312054Z OCT 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Ambassador Jewell participated in the
inauguration of an approximately $3.4 million Narcotics
Affairs Section (NAS) funded 435 meter pier for the
Ecuadorian Navy in the northern city of San Lorenzo,
Esmeraldas province, 10 miles south of the Colombian border,
on October 23, 2007. The pier will provide direct access to
the rivers, estuaries and ocean at this strategically
important location. In the inauguration ceremony, the
Ambassador was accompanied by Ecuador's Minister of Defense,
Dr. Wellington Sandoval, admirals and other dignitaries, who
praised the USG and GOE's commitment to counter narcotics.
The presence of high level GOE and local officials at this
event demonstrates the GOE's commitment to counter narcotics
and the Ecuadorian public's concern about rising illicit drug
activity, especially in the Northern border region. END

2. (SBU) The 435 meter NAS-funded pier, built for the
Ecuadorian Navy at the 11th Marine Battalion of San Lorenzo
(BIMLOR), will greatly enhance Ecuador's ability to fight
narcotraffickers' use of the coastal waterways between
Colombia and Ecuador. The pier strengthens the ability of
the Ecuadorian Navy and Coast Guard to patrol and control
these waterways, as it provides 24 hour access to the
waterways and refueling and maintenance capabilities that did
not previously exist. The project fits into the Mission's
strategy to mobilize GOE military and police forces along the
northern border. Sharing a border with Colombia, the rivers,
estuaries and ocean access of Esmeraldas province are of
strategic importance for maritime traffickers. Maritime
counternarcotics cooperation with the GOE has improved under
the Correa administration and is forcing traffickers to begin
to shift transport strategies.

3. (SBU) The inauguration ceremony was attended by Ecuador's
Minister of Defense, Dr. Wellington Sandoval, and other
military and civilian dignitaries. Speaking on behalf of the
Ecuadorian Navy during the ceremony, Commander Dario Ortega
praised the construction of the pier, saying that it would
"strengthen operations against narco-trafficking, trafficking
of fuels and contraband, and improve the livelihood of the
people in the region." During the toast at the lunch
following, Minister of Defense Sandoval expressed
appreciation for the USG's contributions to counternarcotics
in Ecuador and for bilateral cooperation.

4. (SBU) Ambassador Jewell emphasized in her remarks at the
ceremony that the bilateral relationship has produced
important results, that the increase in seizures and arrests
has been accompanied by an increase in trafficking, and that
we therefore must continue our cooperative fight against the
illicit drug market. The Ambassador further stressed the
USG's commitment to the northern border through contributions
in security as well as economic development programs and
assistance to local governments.

5. (SBU) The Narcotics Affairs Section at the Embassy funded
the pier project, which includes the pier deck and hammerhead
that provide 483 lineal meters during high and low tides, and
slips and fueling capabilities for eight 26-foot armed
Ecuadorian Navy riverine patrol craft and one 82-foot patrol
boat. The project also consisted of an access road, fueling
facilities, on-shore fueling dispensing unit, pier lights,
and a boat-lift structure for patrol boat maintenance.
Project costs totaled $3.4 million and took four years from
beginning design to finish. The project contract was awarded
to the Ecuadorian company Construtec. In addition to the
pier, the Embassy provided three Proline river patrol boats
($370,000) to the BIMLOR and has budgeted $2 million to
strengthen Coast Guard control of Ecuadorian waterways.

6. (SBU) In addition to Minister of Defense Sandoval, the
inauguration ceremony was attended by Under Secretary of
Defense General Jorge Pena, Ecuadorian Navy Commander Vice
Admiral Homero Arellano, Ecuadorian Navy Chief of Staff Vice
Admiral Luis Yepes, Commander of Northern Navy Operations
Command of Esmeraldas (COOPNO) Captain Eduardo Vega,
Commander of the 11th Marine Battalion of San Lorenzo
(BIMLOR) Captain Dario Ortega, Esmeraldas Province Governor
Ricardo Villacis, and San Lorenzo Mayor Gustavo Samaniego.

7. (U) Press coverage of the visit was broad; all but one
national TV network broadcast the story, and the print media
carried follow-up stories. Coverage was cautiously positive,
communicating the message that the pier was a USG
contribution to an Ecuadorian-controlled facility.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: While the Correa administration is highly
sensitive to sovereignty issues, the attendance of both
national and local government officials, as well as the
comments by Defense Minister Sandoval and Ecuadorian Navy
leadership, demonstrate the GOE's continued commitment to
counter-narcotics and bilateral cooperation, as well as
Ecuadorian concern about illicit activity along the northern
border. END COMMENT.


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