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Cablegate: Ecuador Security Minister Explains "Perceptions"

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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000736

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: TWENTY YEARS
TAGS: PREL MARR MCAP MOPS EC CO XM XR
SUBJECT: ECUADOR SECURITY MINISTER EXPLAINS "PERCEPTIONS"
OF U.S.-COLOMBIA MILITARY COOPERATION

REF: A. 09 QUITO 715 ...


id: 221121
date: 8/17/2009 16:15
refid: 09QUITO736
origin: Embassy Quito
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination: 09QUITO570|09QUITO661|09QUITO704|09QUITO715|09STATE47202|09STATE82581
header:
VZCZCXYZ0009
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHQT #0736/01 2291615
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 171615Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY QUITO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0763
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 0325
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 8325
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 4252
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0825
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RUEHGE/AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN 0224
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RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 2251
RUEHPO/AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO 0071
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 3105
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 4567
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL


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C O N F I D E N T I A L QUITO 000736

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: TWENTY YEARS
TAGS: PREL MARR MCAP MOPS EC CO XM XR
SUBJECT: ECUADOR SECURITY MINISTER EXPLAINS "PERCEPTIONS"
OF U.S.-COLOMBIA MILITARY COOPERATION

REF: A. 09 QUITO 715
B. 09 STATE 82581
C. 09 QUITO 704
D. 09 QUITO 661
E. 09 QUITO 570
F. 09 STATE 47202

Classified By: Ambassador Heather M. Hodges for Reasons 1.4 (b&d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: During his visit to attend President
Correa's August 10 inauguration ceremony, DAS Christopher
McMullen met with Security Minister Miguel Carvajal and MFA
Under Secretary Jorge Orbe regarding the ongoing negotiation
of a U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement. McMullen
provided assurances that the DCA did not represent a threat
to Ecuador or any other country in the region. Likewise, the
proposed agreement did not expand the U.S. military presence
in Colombia; rather, it simply sought to formalize existing
ad hoc arrangements that have provided U.S. access to
Colombian bases for a number of years. Carvajal expressed
Ecuador's concern about Colombia's intentions in the region
and rejected the suggestion that GOE rhetoric on the issue
was anti-U.S. As a practical matter, McMullen suggested
that, rather than communicating via the media, the U.S. and
Ecuadorian embassies, as well as the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral
Dialogue, were more appropriate channels for discussion of
issues such as the Colombia DCA. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) On August 7, the MFA accepted WHA Deputy Assistant
Secretary Christopher McMullen's offer to discuss ongoing
negotiations between the U.S.and Colombia regarding a Defense
Cooperation Agreement. Although the MFA told us the meeting
would be with Under Secretary of Bilateral Affairs Jorge
Orbe, upon arrival at the MFA the Coordinating Minister of
Internal and External Security, Miguel Carvajal, and two of
his under secretaries unexpectedly joined the meeting and led
the discussion on behalf of the GOE. DCM and PolOff, as well
as MFA North America desk officer, also attended the meeting.

NO INTEREST IN ESTABLISHING U.S. BASES
--------------------------------------

3. (C) In explaining the Colombia DCA negotiations, DAS
McMullen made the following points:

-- the U.S. has no plans to establish U.S. military bases in
Colombia;

-- the DCA negotiations aim at formalizing existing ad hoc
arrangements that have provided access to Colombian bases on
an informal basis for many years;

-- the U.S. seeks access primarily to three air bases,
including Palanquero, Apiai, and Barranquilla (although the
latter largely for emergency or logistical purposes);

-- the local Colombian commanders would retain control of
these bases;

-- the U.S. military presence in Colombia has been
diminishing in recent years and will continue to do so as the
U.S. transfers key counter-narcotics and security programs to
Colombian control;

-- the U.S. goal is to return eventually to pre-Plan Colombia
levels of security assistance, a process that reflects
Colombia,s increasing capabilities to combat the FARC and
other illegal armed groups;

-- the purpose of this DCA is to deepen and modernize
existing security cooperation, most of which date back to the
Cold War era and are no longer relevant to the current
realities and challenges that we face, particularly
transnational threats such as narco-terrorism in Colombia.

TRANSFERING CN AND SECURITY PROGRAMS; REDUCING US MILITARY

FOOTPRINT
-------------------------------------
------------------------------

4. (C) DAS McMullen explained that the U.S. has already begun
transferring the control of security and counter-narcotics
programs to the GOC, which has demonstrated the capability to
sustain these programs. He noted that USG assistance to
Colombia would eventually return to what it had been prior to
Plan Colombia. He said that with a gradual reduction of U.S.
security assistance over the coming years, the U.S. would
likely reduce the number of military personnel in Colombia.
He pointed out that while the U.S. congressional limit on the
number of military personnel in Colombia was 800, an average
of less than 300 had been present in Colombia the last
several years.

COLOMBIAN BASES ARE NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR MANTA FOL
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. (C) McMullen pointed out that U.S. discussions with
Colombia regarding formalizing access to Colombian bases had
begun well before the GOE's announcement that it would not
renew the agreement for U.S. access to the Forward Operating
Location (FOL) in Manta, Ecuador. He added that the access
to Colombian bases would not replace the capabilities that
were lost with the closure of the Manta FOL. He noted that
the Colombian bases were in the interior of the country, far
from the Eastern Pacific where maritime narco-trafficking was
taking place.

ECUADOR HAS ITS DOUBTS
----------------------

6. (C) Minister Carvajal interjected that Ecuador had a
"distinct perception" regarding the U.S. military presence in
Colombia, and that others in the region shared Ecuador's
concern. He said the announcement that the U.S. would use
Colombian bases came as a big surprise, just as the
reactivation of the Fourth Fleet for use in counternarcotics
had been a surprise. McMullen countered that the Fourth
Fleet's mission was not counternarcotics; it was primarily
humanitarian in nature.

7. (C) Carvajal pressed on, stating that Ecuador seriously
doubted Colombia's commitment to combating the FARC and
narco-trafficking. He stated that Ecuador's key issue was
that Colombia had not provided a guarantee that there would
be no more attacks on Ecuadorian soil; if it did so, all else
would be negotiable. He then cited several reasons why the
GOE mistrusts and doubts Colombia's intentions:

-- March 1, 2008, Colombian bombing of a FARC camp in
Ecuadorian territory.

-- Excessive investment by the USG in Colombia via Plan
Colombia and Plan Patriota.

-- Imbalance in the size of Colombia's military compared to
other countries in the region.

-- Lack of reduction in the production of cocaine in
Colombia. Carvajal asserted that despite USG assistance,
Colombia still had 90 million hectares of coca, whereas
Ecuador had none.

-- Years of damage to licit crops in Ecuador caused by aerial
eradication along the border, with no compensation to
Ecuadorians affected by the spraying.

-- Minimal presence of Colombian security forces along
Colombia's border with Ecuador. Carvajal stated that
Colombia had only 3,000 troops and five bases (two permanent
and three mobile) along its border, whereas Ecuador had 7,000
military and 3,000 police personnel and four times the number
of bases.


-- Colombia's ongoing media campaign to discredit Ecuador.
Carvajal cited the Mono Jojoy video (Ref D) as an example,
calling the video a fake.

-- Lack of Colombian assistance in assisting approximately
135,000 Colombian refugees currently in Ecuador.

DIFFERENT PERCEPTIONS OF THREAT
-------------------------------

8. (C) Responding to Carvajal's question on why Colombia did
not station more of its troops along its border with Ecuador,
McMullen said that it would be best to ask Colombia directly
regarding its strategy, and expressed hope that Ecuador would
improve its relations with Colombia. McMullen added that
Colombia was engaged in a difficult conflict with the FARC,
ELN and other armed groups, and had suffered greatly from
their brutal tactics. In recent years, the GOC has made
impressive progress in the fight against these illegal armed
groups. He then drew a contrast with Venezuela, noting that
the GOV had increased its military strength even though it
did not face a similar threat. Carvajal quickly responded
that Venezuela's threat was Colombia.

CARVAJAL DOWNPLAYS HARSH ANTI-U.S. RHETORIC
-------------------------------------------

9. (C) McMullen noted that Ecuador had been a good partner in
the fight against narcotrafficking, and said he had been
surprised by President Correa and other GOE officials' harsh
rhetoric calling the U.S. military presence in Colombia a
"provocation." He observed that the accusations were even
less understandable considering the Ambassador's August 4
assurances to Foreign Minister Falconi (Ref C), as well as
President Obama's recent remarks stating clearly that there
would be no U.S. bases in Colombia, that the U.S. would not
control Colombian bases, and that the purpose of our presence
in Colombia was to continue the fight against
narcotrafficking. Carvajal denied that the GOE had used any
inappropriate rhetoric, justifying his assessment by saying
that the GOE had not used derogatory terms such as "yankee"
when referring to President Obama.

FINDING A COMMON WAY FORWARD
----------------------------

10. (C) Focusing the conversation back on practical matters,
DAS McMullen stressed that Ecuador and the U.S. were partners
in counternarcotics cooperation. He pointed out that
although the Manta FOL agreement had not been renewed, the
U.S. was hopeful regarding Ecuador's ongoing review of the
"Gas and Go" proposal, which might allow U.S. planes to fly
anti-drug missions out of Guayaquil's airport (Refs E and F).
Returning to the DCA issue, McMullen explained that the USG
had not consulted with Ecuador or other countries because it
was bilateral in nature; the negotiations with Colombia were
ongoing, so we could not predict the final form of the
agreement; and the DCA does not break new ground, it would
merely formalize existing cooperation. He said that had the
GOE asked for information regarding the issue, prior to
making public accusations, the USG would have responded
immediately (as was done at the request of the Brazilian
Embassy in Washington). He suggested that Embassy Quito and
Ecuador's Embassy in Washington were the appropriate channels
for requesting this type of information. MFA Under Secretary
Orbe suggested the OAS as a forum to discuss the issue.
McMullen countered that the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Dialogue
would be a more appropriate forum for discussion of Ecuador's
security concerns vis-a-vis U.S. security cooperation with
Colombia.

COMMENT
-------

11. (C) This meeting was useful in airing the frank views of

both sides regarding U.S.-Colombian negotiations on the DCA.
While Carvajal recognized the importance of sharing
information and perspectives, he was mostly interested in
communicating the GOE's concerns to the USG. It is clear
that the GOE's mistrust of Colombia will continue to affect
its views of U.S.-Colombian security cooperation. In the
absence of any formal bilateral mechanism between Ecuador and
Colombia, and in response to Foreign Minister Falconi's
suggestion to the Ambassador (Ref C), the U.S. might be able
to play a useful role in facilitating communication between
the GOE and Colombia, although the personal bad blood between
Correa and Uribe will ultimately limit the extent to which
the U.S. can resolve this vexing bilateral dispute.

12. (U) This cable was cleared by DAS McMullen.

HODGES

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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